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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Read the transcript to the Wednesday show

June 4, 2014

Guest: William Barber, Jonathan Gruber, Andrew Lehren; David Rohde; Stuart

ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: Good evening. I`m Ari Melber, in for
Lawrence O`Donnell.

Belhaven, North Carolina, population, 1,700. It calls itself the
beautiful safe harbor.

Now today, the Republican mayor of Belhaven went to the state capital
in Raleigh with an appeal to his fellow Republicans who are blocking
Medicaid expansion. He said, "Don`t let our people die."


ADAM O`NEAL (R), MAYOR OF BELHAVEN, NC: I`m a Republican. I`m
standing with a bunch of Democrats over here.

But no party is right all the time. We all make mistakes.


O`NEAL: And we have an issue here that is common sense and logical
and we need to take a new look at it. I`m glad to be part of a respectful,
positive petition of elected officials to consider a new course on Medicaid
expansion. We are gathering to strongly recommend that our leadership look
at going a different path.

The path the legislators are on right now has already caused stress on
our hospitals and especially rural hospitals. Our rural hospitals could
hardly survive in the past due to the reimbursements for energy and care.
Without Medicaid expansion, reimbursements are falling. And hospitals like
the one in my hometown are on the brink of possibly even closing.

The closing of critical access hospitals is critical. The reason
they`re called critical access homes is because they`re critical.


O`NEAL: If you don`t have critical access hospitals, people
needlessly die. That`s a fact. We are talking about life or death here.
People will die.

This is not debatable. Nobody can come out here and debate if people
are going to die or not. It is a certainty.

I understand the governor and the legislators are concerned that
federal funding promise maze not be kept in the future. Their concerns may
be very valid.

BARBER: That`s right.

O`NEAL: All right? But the way to deal with the federal government
issue is at the federal level. Not here in our state. And in my opinion,
to save lives, and health care access, the state representatives should
accept Medicaid expansion and then lobby the federal government in order to
mediate any concerns they have, use all the influence and power that our
state government has to try to shore up those concerns they have.


O`NEAL: You can`t let hospitals close and people die to prove a

BARBER: That`s right. That`s right. That`s right.


O`NEAL: We can`t negotiate our concerns about future Medicare
reimbursements from the federal government with closing our rural hospitals
and citizens dying. I want to make it clear that I understand, appreciate
and agree with a lot of the concerns that the legislators have. But I do
not in any way agree with letting reimbursements fall to our rural
hospitals, critical access hospitals, result in hospitals closing and in
the future hundred of thousands of North Carolinians without emergency room

I think this is plain and simple.

BARBER: That`s right, that`s right.

O`NEAL: Forget about the billions that will come to the state in the
form of jobs and, actual money for health care. Forget about the 25,000
new jobs. This is as Dr. Barber says, a moral issue.

Dr. Barber and I don`t agree about everything, most things.

BARBER: That`s right, that`s right.

O`NEAL: Most things we don`t agree with.

BARBER: That`s right.

O`NEAL: Our governor and legislators they`re good people who disagree
with us on this issue.

BARBER: That`s right.

O`NEAL: I hope they reconsider and decide to focus on federal reform
to mediate their concerns and don`t let rural hospitals suffer and our poor
suffer. Don`t let our hospitals close. Rural citizens dying shouldn`t be
soldiers of our legislature`s defiance.

BARBER: That`s right. That`s right. That`s right.


O`NEAL: This problem is something that is on a plane way above
politics, because people are going to die. And when I say people, we need
to look at that a little closer. You know, this man right here if he were
to die, because the heave didn`t have access, to an emergency room, he has
probably got some children.

BARBER: That`s right, that`s right.

O`NEAL: He`s got a mama that loves him. He`s got a wife that may
love him if he is married.


O`NEAL: All right? He`s go a nephew depending on him help them out
in college, he`ll actually spending money. This man goes away, there is a
problem. All right?

If my little 9-year-old girl dies, there is a problem.

BARBER: That`s right.

O`NEAL: We got to do something. And I hope we all work together. We
all stand up for what is right. And get these legislators, to turn around,
accept Medicare expansion and then deal with issues as they come. Don`t
let the poor people of North Carolina be the soldiers of the defiant.

BARBER: That`s right.



MELBER: That was pretty powerful.

And the call to action on Medicaid was led by a familiar face to this
audience, the Reverend William Barber of the Moral Monday protests.


BARBER: When people block Medicaid, whether they`re Democrat or
Republican, they are not following the own tradition of their party. The
Republicans support it, rural hospital. Republican and Democrats support
it, creation of Medicaid. It`s time for our leadership on this issue to
put down their swords and do what is right.


MELBER: The Reverend William Barber, president of the North Carolina
NAACP, joins me now.

Along with Jonathan Gruber, an architect of both the Massachusetts
health care law, and the ACA. He is a professor of economics at MIT.

Good evening, gentlemen.

BARBER: Good evening.


MELBER: Reverend Barber, tell us about what led to that action to day
and what -- you think is so it important about the word you used, unity,
bipartisanship, where you can get it, rooted in these moral values.

BARBER: Well, we have a moral movement with a face on it. And, you
know, William Lord Garrison said with reasonable men, you reason. With
humane people, you plead. But with tyrants, you give no quarter.

And Mayor O`Neal and I are blood brothers in this, because we
understand people will die. People are dying because of the denial of
Medicaid expansion and it makes no sense.

You look at the Hill-Burton Act, for instance, that created rural
hospitals. It was when a Republican and a Democrat came together and
sponsor that legislation. This is a common sense issue. It`s a moral
issue, and we should be doing what is right.

Pungo Hospital has been in that community for 60 years. Floods have
not been able to undo it. Hurricanes have not been able to destroy it.
But a governor and Speaker Tillis deciding to deny Medicaid expansion out
of spite, out of their hatred, or dislike for a president, is about to
close that hospital and undermine health care services for 25,000 people.
Most of which are poor.

That is wrong. That is immoral. That`s why my good friend Mayor
O`Neal and I on this issue are standing together in saying let`s do what`s

MELBER: Yes. And, Reverend, you use the word "spite". It seems like
the apt term for something that has negative consequences for these
people`s own constituents.

And, Jonathan, when you look at Mayor O`Neal there, we wanted to play
a lot of that, because it was powerful of him telling the story of this
politicized Medicare back and forth. When ACA was created, of course, some
Medicare funds that went to reimbursing hospitals for uninsured patients
were rerouted to Medicaid to ensure them.

Walk us through what that meant and what you took again, from the
mayor`s statement there that we played.

GRUBER: Yes, sure thing. Happy to do so. You know, obviously, I
can`t speak nearly as eloquently about the moral issues as both the mayor
and reverend did.

But let me speak about the numbers. The way this law was set up and
the way our law was set up in Massachusetts, was to recognize currently
hospitals spend a lot of money to cover people who are uninsured who come
through their doors. The notion was, let`s redirect some of that money, to
insure people. So, that they don`t have to come to those hospitals, so
they can get preventative care they need. And that notion work in

As a recent study showed, we save more than 300 lives a year in
Massachusetts for passing health care reform. If we put that in context of
North Carolina, estimates show if North Carolina doesn`t expand Medicaid,
its 400,000 more uninsured North Carolinians. That is about -- that`s
about 400 more deaths a year that are going to occur because it is not

And it`s important to emphasize, this is not something which is cost
the state a lot of money. By turning this down, the state is turning down
$4 billion a year, in revenues, OK? That is $400 for every man, woman and
child, the state is turning down by not accepting the federal money.

MELBER: Yes. And the other thing we know, and, Reverend, I want you
to speak to this, is that in North Carolina, it`s about 45 percent of the
folks, of 300,000, 400,000 that would be denied care, well, 45 percent are
in rural areas. I don`t want to get up here and imply that we should pick
-- I mean, we are talking about moral values here. I don`t want to say we
should pick one group over another. But as you know, in the politics,
people often demagogue, as Medicaid, as some sort of black, or urban
beneficiary program. That`s not what it is, and that`s not what it is in
North Carolina, sir.

BARBER: Exactly. Our numbers said actually, from the Justice Center,
the Policy Center, upwards of 500,000 people would have been able to
qualify for Medicaid expansion. And according to I think "The New England
Medical Journal", for every 500,000 people denied, 2,800 people die.

I had met three people this week, this whole week, we`ve been focusing
on Medicaid. We`ve been focusing on coal ash and fracking. That`s why I`m
wearing this red shirt, because these are matters of blood, matters of life
and death.

I met three people this week, all who were white, who have cancer, or
loved ones with cancer, that are either dying or could have gotten
treatment if Medicaid had been expanded. One is a young single white woman
who has cervical cancer, who actually did a sit-in in Speaker Tillis`
office, despite the fact she has cervical cancer.

The reality is every citizen ought to be joining us in calling for
Medicaid expansion. We`re calling on Senator Hager, Senator Bird, the
president used a bully pulpit, hospital like Pungo Hospital should be an
example of rural hospitals in providing health care to rural communities
and poor communities. It should not be forwarding and it should not be
dying or made to die because a governor and a speaker are so extreme in
their policies that they would not accept expansion.

MELBER: Yes. Jonathan, let me play a little bit from state house
Democratic leader, Larry Hall. This is from today`s event. And we played
a lot of the Republican. Here is a local Democrat making the point on
dollars and cents. Take a listen.


year, 2022, it`s estimated our citizens will be paying $2.6 billion to fund
Medicaid expansion in other states. Look at this. We have North
Carolinians that need help. We have the funding mechanism and are paying
into the system to provide that help. But by our refusal to expand, we are
paying for the help and the health and the jobs to go to other states.


MELBER: Jonathan, you hear it there. We talked about why this is
immoral. Talk about why it is unfair and desperately proportionate in its
impact. There, the argument is simply, it`s also stupid.

GRUBER: It is -- it`s stupid and malicious, because basically what
you are saying is the federal government is offering to redirect other
states` dollars to help your poor citizens stay alive. So, what you`re
saying, if you turn this down, let`s be clear, is not only do I want some
of my poor citizens to die. Not only do I want some of my state hospitals
how to close. But I don`t want an injection from the federal government
that would amount to $40 billion over the next decade. That`s the kind of
money they`re turning down.

MELBER: Yes, that is -- yes, Jonathan, that is hard to sell.

We`re almost out of time. Reverend, where do from here? What`s next?

BARBER: Well, we`re going to continue to mobilize. We`re going to
continue to pressure. Fifty-four percent of North Carolinians want to see
Medicaid expanded.

You know, it`s sick to want to keep people sick and particularly in
the south where you have numbers of poverty, 1.6 million poor people in
North Carolina, 600,000 of them are children. This is counterintuitive in
the South.

Black and white people are coming together. Doctors and patients are
coming together. We are going to keep this pressure up. And, we will
probably be mobilizing on every Southern state capital where governors and
legislators are literally passing policies that will cause people to die.
It is wrong. It is immoral. It`s -- it`s economically insane.

And we have to mobilize it. We call on everybody to stay with us and
turn this around.

MELBER: Reverend William Barber, Jonathan Gruber, appreciate you both
for your expertise and your time and your work on the issues. Thank you,

GRUBER: Thank you, Ari.

MELBER: Coming up, the first test of Alabama`s new voter suppression

And today marks an infamous anniversary you may remember. It`s been
25 years since tanks stormed Tiananmen Square. But if you were to ask a
young Chinese man or woman about the moment in history, they might not know
anything that you are talking about. We have a pretty extraordinary look
of China`s censoring of history from inside China itself. That is later.

And also, actor Jonah Hill is apologizing for using the F-word, not
that F-word, though, a different one. It`s the kind of apology that is
actually pretty rare in our culture. And it`s the kind of apology we
should look for more often. That apology and Stuart Milk`s reaction,
that`s also coming up tonight.

Stay with us.


MELBER: An election update for you. Voters in two of three
California counties voting on seceding from the state decided to stick with
California yesterday. Residents in Del Norte and Siskiyou County voted to
stay with the state of California, while voters in Tehama County voted to
secede. Several other counties voted to explore secession.

You`re not going to see a 51st state anytime soon, though. That`s
because both the state legislature and Congress would have to approve any
split the counties wanted to conduct.

Now, coming up how did the new voter ID law work in Alabama yesterday?
Well, why don`t you ask the 93-year-old man who was turned away at the
polls? That`s next!


MELBER: Yesterday`s primary was the first real test of Alabama`s
strict new voter ID law. We can report it disenfranchised one valid voter,
93-year-old Willie Mims.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When did you first vote?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today, you didn`t get a chance to vote?

MIMS: No. I didn`t get a chance to vote. I went down there though.
I went down there. And they told me I had to get my -- something with my
name on it.


MELBER: Willie Mims doesn`t drive anymore. So, he doesn`t need a
license. And he didn`t have any other form of ID, not that there is
anything wrong with that.

According to reports, election officials didn`t offer him a chance to
cast a provisional ballot, which is actually still required under that law.

And Alabama originally passed this voter ID law back in 2011. It
didn`t go into effect until after last year`s Supreme Court ruling, of
course, overturning part of the Voting Rights Act. And in that ruling, the
court eliminated the requirement that states with history of discrimination
have to get advance approval for changes to how people vote.

That`s not all. GOP politicians in Alabama say the ID law wasn`t
designed to make it harder to vote. It was designed to combat voter fraud.
You heard about that before. And that kind of fraud ranges from rare to
nonexistent, a fact that was actually evident in an unusual new offer from
the Alabama GOP.

Look at this. The state`s Republican Party announced it`s offering a
$1,000 reward for information that directly leads to a conviction of a
felony for voter fraud.

Now, if that happened a lot, that would be an expensive program for
the Alabama GOP. But this new bounty raises more troubling questions about
what Alabama Republicans are up to. When did this political party decide
its job to police elections instead of trying to win elections?

Joining me now is Zachary Roth, reporter for MSNBC, and "The
Washington Post`s" Eugene Robinson, also an MSNBC analyst.

Welcome to you both.

Zach, you have been reporting on this area. What did we learn in
Alabama yesterday?

all, we know for a fact that the law disenfranchises valid voters. You
showed the video of Willie Mims saying, I couldn`t vote.

We also learned that the Alabama GOP is intent on rooting out some
kind of voter fraud that they believe they can find. They offered $1,000
reward. This is a pretty good test. So far, it doesn`t sound like they
have come up with too much.

To be fair, I actually checked back with them today. They said there
was a couple of incidents, two of which, it sounded like, could potentially
have been stopped by voter ID that they were going to look into a little
built more. Absolutely no confirmation that these were organized fraud in
any way. They`re going to look some more and release the results.

If the past is anything to go by, it is very unlikely that this would
lead to any voter fraud convictions that they`re looking for or
prosecutions is very unlikely.

MELBER: Right. And, Eugene, you look at the video of Mr. Mims. And
if you are a fair-minded person, or you just believe in democracy, it is
angering. It doesn`t feel like there is any reason this individual should
be prevented from voting.

Please put that in context for us with this bounty which I find very

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, first of all, when you
look at that video, of Mr. Mims, it makes you think it`s not 2014. It
makes you think it`s about 1952. Or, something like that.

I mean, you know this, this looks like the old Alabama from that film.
Now, you know, for all I know there might have been, a Caucasian voter or
two who was also disenfranchised yesterday and maybe, maybe, that sort of
news will come out in the days to come.

But I think, we have a pretty good idea of what the intent tough this
law is. And this bounty offer is just ludicrous. It goes once again to
prove that all of this, voter ID, is ostensibly to solve a problem that
does not exist, that you can`t find if you paid to find it. And they`re
not going to find it.

These four incidents, if all they can find is four incidents that they
say might look like voter fraud, I can pretty much guarantee they`re all
going to disappear. I think I would guarantee, $1,000 if any of those
actually ends up as a conviction.

MELBER: Right. We looked at this. There is different ways to count
it. But In one analysis by News 21 Group, you have out of 146 million
registered voters, 10 to 15 -- 10 cases of this which comes out to one out
of every 15 million perspective voters.

That`s a lot of zeros, Zach, after the decimal point to show how
rarely this happens. And yet, when you look at Alabama, they`re getting
away with it so far. In the courts the question is whether they had a
discriminatory intent with the laws -- a point that Gene was alluding to.

ROTH: That`s right. And especially now, under the Voting Rights Act,
in its more weakened form since last summer, it`s more difficult to get
these laws struck down. One interesting point about, about this, you said
it. It was enacted in 2011, but hadn`t gone into effect until after the
show, the county decision, that`s because Alabama itself did not try to get
the law approved. So, they knew it was going to have a discriminatory
impact and wasn`t going to withstand the Voting Rights Act.

MELBER: Right. And, Gene, the reason they needed the so-called, what
the lawyers called preclearance basically, the permission slip in advance
is because they had systematically discriminated by race so long that they
were in that category. Whenever I talk about the Voting Rights Act, it`s
important to remind people most states are not in that category, it is not
a necessary presumption of oversight for everyone. It is looking act the
places where the discrimination has occurred.

ROBINSON: Yes, that`s absolutely right. One thing that is important
to remember, Ari, that not, it wasn`t that the entire Voting Rights Act was
thrown out. I should say yet. It wasn`t all thrown out.

So, what the Supreme Court has done is imposed a much higher burden on
the Justice Department, rather than seek preclearance for changes, states
that are covered or were covered under the old map can go ahead and impose
them. But the Justice Department can still investigate and can see if
there is discriminatory impact.

And under Eric Holder, the Justice Department will indeed look at the
impact of this law. And so, just a shame that it has to be after the fact
and it`s a shame that people do have to be disenfranchised if indeed the
law is ultimately found to be discriminatory.

MELBER: Yes. And, Zach, the last thing I want to touch on is there
was a study where they actually had researchers impersonate voters
contacting legislators. You wrote about this. What happened there? What
did that seem to demonstrate?

ROTH: Well, it was a pretty ingenious study, actually because they
had some e-mail that were sent, coming from Jacob Smith. And others from,
I think it was Santiago Rodriguez. They fund among legislator whose
supported voter ID, they were much less likely to respond to the e-mails.
And this is a question, an email asking about voting. They`re much less
likely to respond to Santiago Rodriguez than to Jacob Smith.

The reason that is important, is a lot of the cases that are
challenging voter ID laws and voting restrictions hinge on being able to
prove that discriminatory intent. So, in these cases the plaintiffs are
looking for e-mails that show evidence of racial bias and so on.

If you could show that kind of pattern of not responding to voters who
are Hispanic or who are black, at the rate you are responding to white
voters, that`s all evidence that would be taken into account, to show that
kind of discriminatory intent and that`s what the lawyers are looking to

MELBER: Yes, and that really goes to why these laws exist and whether
you need to patrol them or as Gene was mentioning, use the rest of the
Voting Rights Act as the DOJ is trying to do.

Zach Roth and Gene Robinson, thank you both for joining me tonight.

ROTH: Thanks so much.

ROBINSON: Thank you.

MELBER: Appreciate it.

Coming up, the right-wing`s use of Bowe Bergdahl to attack the

And what happens when you ask Chinese citizens today, about Tiananmen
Square, 25 years after the crackdown. What the Chinese don`t know or can`t
say about their history. That`s ahead as well.


MELBER: In the spotlight tonight, the U.S. military has not decided
whether to prosecute Bowe Bergdahl, yet many other people have.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have got to understand about Bergdahl, he
wasn`t captured by the enemy. He kind of wandered off and almost gave
himself up to the enemy. Was the President frying to do this for political
reasons? Was there something that he wanted to get off his plate?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard about it this morning speaking to a
rotary club, one of the questions they had. What are you going to do to
the President? Why did he do it this way? Why did he do it in secret?
Why does he thinks he can work outside the law?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are true heroes who died in Afghanistan
looking for him. I am not here to talk about politics or the actual five
Taliban members not to comment on what the President said. I am just here
to try to inform the American people who ever will listen of what truth is.


MELBER: What the truth is -- this is of course an important story.
But it does still remain at this point a murky one. Now, an investigative
report in "The New York Times" today added context to a claim that has
sparked a lot of outrage about Bergdahl that his disappearance was linked
to the deaths of up to eight American soldiers. A reporter Andrew Lehren
was able to review the original military logs and found several deaths were
not directly caused by a search for the missing POW. In that article, "the
Times" reports the first two deaths were inside an outpost that came under
attack, not out patrolling and running checkpoints looking for him. The
other six soldiers died in late August and early September, two months
after Bergdahl`s June 30th disappearance.

In that article, "the Times" also reports that a retired senior
American military officer said even though soldiers were instructed to
watch for signs of the missing American they would have been performing
risky operations anyway adding it was quote, "ludicrous to lay 100 percent
of the blame for the deaths at sergeant Bergdahl`s feet."

Still, we should note "the Times" also reports that Bergdahl`s
platoon mates felt that quote "too often the purpose of their patrols into
dangerous area was not ordinary war time work like recognizance but rather
to go look for this guy."

Joining me now is Andrew Lehren with "the New York Times," who has
been closely following Bowe Bergdahl`s capture and David Rohde, a Pulitzer
prize winning reporter for Reuters, also the author of the book "a rope and
a prayer" about his experience as a prisoner held by the Taliban for seven

Good evening to you both.


MELBER: Andrew, let me start with you. How long did it take you to
get these answers that do cast doubt on some of the more extreme charges
against this former POW?

ANDREW LEHREN, REPORTER, NW YORK TIMES: We have been going through
the, the war logs since we got them in 2010. So, this is familiar turf for
us. And certainly with Bergdahl`s release we were ramping up right away to
go and revisit all this material.

In the course of that, what is particularly interesting is the
military assessments. These were the contemporary in these reports
happening, at the same time, as all event that we are talking about. And
the military itself is really clear in its assessments that look, what`s
going on in these attacks, is that we are being overrun here in Paktika
province here in eastern Afghanistan, we are being overrun by a Haqqani
network which are largely Pakistani insurgents led in this case by Mullah
(INAUDIBLE). They`re overrunning all these outposts and compounds that are
firing mortars, small arms fire.

This is happening both before Bergdahl`s abduction as well as
afterward. And even in the, in the deaths you see on the fourth of July in
2009. This is after Bergdahl`s capture, even in those deaths you see the
military`s own assessment, not pinning it on Bergdahl, but pinning it on
the three month ramp up, that they have been experiencing all spring.

MELBER: Right. And to your point, Andrew. When you say the military
assessment, you are as you mentioned working off their original internal
documentation. Part of why some of the Wikileaks materials, remain really
illuminating. And also as different from what an individual soldier who
may have strong feelings and completely legitimately speaking out on this.
But what an individual soldier concludes and what I showed or what the
military`s analysis was.

And yet, David, what we are seeing here is of somewhat unusual attempt
to take people who were killed by the Taliban, these eight American
soldiers, these heroes, and start to say, yes, the Taliban killed them, but
maybe it was someone else`s fault.

DAVID ROHDE, REPORTER, REUTER: Well, there is -- I want to be fair to
the soldiers on their face. And I think that Bergdahl`s disappearance did
sort of throw off the plans on what they are really going to do in Paktika
province at the time. But I don`t think we will ever know, frankly. I
don`t think you can will be ever be able to definitively say, maybe the
first two soldiers, that, well that attack was on an existing outpost, as
the story points out, it is all unclear. Was this attack, you know, would
this unit have been out there anyway looking for Bergdahl or not? So, it`s
very unusual what is happening.

There has been also some bad reporting. There was this, you know,
story that was initially out there, Bergdahl left a note. He wanted to go
for a new life. That is a parentally not true. There has been to me, a
series of reports about his family. To be honest.

MELBER: Well, there is a reason for that. Which is certain, certain
individuals aren`t actually doing any, any type of journalism here or
research. They`re just picking up whatever innuendo they can because there
is an agenda around target, which is separate from who he is, and what we
know about him. And by the way, General Dempsey saying they may consider a
court martial, which is quite serious.

Also tonight, we have reaction from members of the intelligence
committee on this, critical of the White House here. Take a listen to


SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: There is no intelligence that
indicated that from a medical standpoint his life was in danger. It
appeared that he was drugged and that he was barely responsive in the video
itself. It was not a very long video. You can`t conclude a whole lot from

at all. Proof of life. Five month as go, December. At that time he was
impaired. That was not the person that was released here. He was not in
that type of dire situation.


MELBER: Andrew, your thoughts there on two senators reacting to the

LEHREN: Clearly they have, they have their opinions and their stance.
I mean, the reporting that we have done is looking back at what the
military was thinking at the time that all of these events were unfolding.

ROHDE: And in terms of the video, I made videos in captivity.
They`re made under duress. It`s possible that Bowe Bergdahl was in
terrible shape when the video was made. And the Taliban knew this deal was
coming so they dressed him up today, gave him new clothes, maybe feeding
him better recently. So, it is really hard to know what actually happened.
Again, we need to wait for facts and Bowe Bergdahl to answer all these

MELBER: Right. I should mention that was two senators from both
parties. This is a somewhat extraordinary circumstance but I can`t
remember these kind of prominent politicians sort of coming in and being
this overly skeptical as a POW, one of our folks is coming back still in
the hospital.

ROHDE: It`s become very politicized. That`s true. And that`s what`s
so strange about this sort of rush to judgment. I mentioned earlier his
family who I have been in touch with, you know. There are comments that,
you know, his father had a beard. And are they Muslim?

I mean, the Bergdahl family, they are religious and they`re
Christians. And you know, his father`s statements that have been quoted
online. He was trying to save his son`s life and appeal to the captors.
Anything the father says while his son is a prisoner he is going to stay
nice things potentially to the Taliban so they won`t kill his son. We just
need some time here to get more facts.

MELBER: And so, Andrew, let me ask you the broader policy question.
Because Americans have been watching this long war for a long time. What
if anything do we know now about our entanglement in Afghanistan, the wind
down or potential for. Some have suggested for a better trust worthy type
of negotiations with a very terrible enemy here, the Taliban.

LEHREN: Right. Clearly you go back and you look at how the war was
unfolding, particularly around events surrounding Bowe Bergdahl. You see
that, it is a very difficult war. And it`s been hard fought. There were a
lot of difficulties our soldiers faced.

MELBER: But do you think this is, briefly, a path to having a big ear
agreement with them in any way?

LEHREN: That`s not something I -- I don`t think I can really answer.

MELBER: OK. Well sometimes we end with a non-answer. But your
reporting today has been useful. And I appreciate you both of your, David
Rohde and Andrew Lehren, joining me tonight.

LEHREN: Thank you so much.

ROHDE: Absolutely.

MELBER: Coming up, the right way to apologize. The lesson, there is
one, from Jonah Hill and Stuart milk will be here to break it down.


MELBER: Here is some good news, sort of. Our long national nightmare
involving Donald Sterling appears much closer to being over. Tonight, his
attorney gave this statement exclusively to NBC News.

Quote "Donald Sterling officially announce today the NBA and Donald
Sterling and Shelley Sterling have agreed to sell the L.A. Clippers to
Steve Ballmer for $2 billion and various additional benefits. All disputes
and outstanding issues have been resolved. Thank you." Bobby Samini.

Samini also confirmed to NBC News, the $1 billion lawsuit that Donald
Sterling had filed against the NBA has now been dropped. Sterling is still
banned from life for owning an NBA team because of racist remarks he made,
which were recorded by his one-time companion.

The Clippers` new owner, Steve Ballmer, is the former CEO of
Microsoft. And according to Forbes he has a net worth of about $20
billion. That makes him the 21st richest person in America and 35 richest
in the world. It is a lot of billions.

Coming up next, why the word "May 35th" are banned to this day in


MELBER: Today is the 25th year anniversary of the Tiananmen square
demonstrations. The six-week uprising that began with the sudden death of
the reformer (INAUDIBLE) and evolved into a broader fight for democracy.

But on June 4, 1989, the Chinese government ordered, of course, a
military crackdown on those student protests. Images from Tiananmen square
showed arm troops and tanks and people`s liberation army suppressing that
movement with a brutal efficiency, even shooting many protesters dead in
the street.

Today in Hong Kong, thousands of people held a vigil to mark that
anniversary. Hong Kong was not part of the mainland back in 1989 and still
remains a semiautonomous city state. It is only one of the places
connected to China where public demonstrations are occurring. Why? Well,
that`s because the government of course in Beijing has spent decade
suppressing even the mere existence of the Tiananmen square protests. And
that means no discussion, no news coverage, in fact, even basic references
to June 4th, this anniversary date, are totally scrubbed from the internet.
Some activists try to subvert that restriction by referring to the event as
May 35th.

It may be hard to appreciate how effective that kind of suppression
even is when we get to watch it here from the U.S., a nation with a very
free press. But the Chinese government`s efforts have left many young
Chinese citizens totally ignorant of a part of their history that the rest
of the world knows. That is the subject of a very fascinating new report
from our journalist partners, Advocative.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: You know what happened on June 4th,
1989, in China?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty five years after thousand of Chinese
students gathered in Tiananmen square for an extraordinary show of civil
disobedience. In Beijing today there is a real sense of historical

Back then the students` demonstration against corruption and
inequality and lack of basic political freedom was crushed by the military.
And the men who ruled China from the buildings around the famous square
also known as the gate of heavenly peace. These days the tanks are
replaced by an army of digital sensor whose wipe out any public mention of
the Tiananmen square crackdown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is an incredibly massive undertaking. Shaping
the minds of a billion people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have been collecting thousands of posts from
(INAUDIBLE), the Chinese version of twitter and tracking the ones
mysteriously deleted by state censors and internal units OF (INAUDIBLE).
It turns out many of the deleted posts had something to do with
commemorating the anniversary of Tiananmen square.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: The sequester that sustain sensor ship
has been enormously successful.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Many Chinese we spoke to have clearly
moved on. This man didn`t want his face shown.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: So when it comes to civil disobedience
in China, it`s less what`s happening on the streets and more about what is
happening online. Not even the great wheel of China can shut that down.



MELBER: The beloved young actor Jonah Hill used a slur while being
harassed by paparazzi on the street recently. He could have released a
lame, half hearted apology. But instead, he did something pretty
surprising. Jonah`s word and Stuart Milk straight ahead.


MELBER: Now this starts with a classic paparazzi tactic, have a
photographer follow a celebrity until they lose their cool, say something
stupid or offensive. And it is all, of course, caught on camera for
profit. We are not going to show the particular clip here. But those
tactics are definitely not an excuse for hateful, derogatory or offensive
speech. And that was actor Jonah Hill`s message actually last night in a
pretty apology for the time recently here where he used a gay slur against
a photographer.


JONAH HILL, ACTOR: This weekend I was out with some friends and there
was a paparazzi guy and he was antagonizing me and calling me names,
attacking me personally and my family personally. And I was, I was
genuinely hurt by this. And made angry by this. And in response I wanted
to hurt him back, and I said the most hurtful word that I could think of at
that moment. And, you know, I didn`t mean this in the sense of the word,
you know I didn`t mean it in a homophobic way. And I think that -- sorry,
I think that, that doesn`t matter. You know? How you mean things doesn`t
matter. Word have weight and meaning. And the word I chose was grotesque
and you know no one deserves to say or hear words like that.

And you know, I have been a supporter of the LBGT community my entire
life. And completely let the members of that community and everybody else
down when I used a word like that this weekend.

And my heart is broken. And I genuinely am deeply sorry to anyone who
has ever been affected by that term in their life. And I`m sorry, and I
don`t deserve or expect your forgiveness. But, what I ask is that at home
if you are watching this, and you are a young person, especially, if
someone says something that hurts you or angers you, use me as an example
of what not to do. And don`t respond with hatred or anger. Because you
are just adding more ugliness to the world. And again, I just, I am so


MELBER: Joining me now, LGBT rights activist, the cofounder of the
Harvey Milk foundation, Stuart Milk. Your thoughts there on the way he
handled that?

STUART MILK, LGBT RIGHTS ACTIVIST: Well, you know I give Mr. Hill a
lot of credit. I think he was sincere. He was swift. And his response
had an educational element to it. I think it was profound that he said
that word have meaning and that word are powerful and to use his example as
something not to do.

Hopefully young people on playground and in school cafeterias will
remember that. If we reach some of them we will have gained a victory
here. But as you asked me, Ari, a couple weeks ago, you know if -- if the
derogatory terms towards LGBT people has reached the same threshold of non-
tolerance in the U.S. as, as other bigoted word and terms, and it hasn`t,
but we are getting there. And I think that, that this is an example of how
to take a negative situation and make it into an educational opportunity.

MELBER: Right. It hasn`t quite gotten there. And that matters
because we know how strongly these type of words or a type of sort of base
level background disrespect or intolerance can shape so many other things.
And yet, I want to read to you what Jay Brian Lowder (ph), wrote about

He said there are, Of course, occasions when a celebrity using a slur
would be news. The context matters and a wild eyed homophobic tirade is
different from a word tossed off under one`s breath in a moment of
frustration, under duress. Many of us might choose a term that is
stubbornly lodged deep within in our juvenile vocabulary of piss off
emotion, before high brain function steps in to remind us of its larger

Your thought there on the idea that this sort of blurted out in a
semiprivate or semi-stressed moment?

MILK: Well, context is part of any equation. But there is no excuse
to allow fear, anger and frustration into moving us to where we diminish
and attack a whole community of people. And so, what we are doing is that
negativity is dehumanizing folks. And word that bash dehumanize and
diminish whole commune these should never be acceptable.

MELBER: And what about the, what I call sort of the background, there
record, political context here. We can put up on the screen when he was
supporting athletes, LGBT, gay athletes in the Russia context for the
Olympics. And he, of course, talked about that in the interview. How do
you weight that in this incident?

MILK: Well, I do think it is weighted. I mean, I think this was
again somebody who allowed fear and anger to motivate him. And I think
again it is a lesson. He`s clearly somebody who understand the LGBT
community. But I do think it is important that`s we call folk when they do
use word that attack and diminish and that dehumanize a whole group of

MELBER: Right. That`s well put. And the way he put it a lesson for
the rest of us what not to do, thought, was also interesting.

Stuart Milk, you get tonight`s "LAST WORD."

I`m Ari Melber in for Lawrence O`Donnell.

And you got to know this. Tomorrow night on the show, Levar Burton
will be rebooting reading rainbow. He is going to tell us about that
project thanks to the support he got online that kick starter.

Now, "All-In with Chris Hayes" is next.


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