Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: January 31, 2015
Guest: Gail Shust, Igor Volsky, Abraham Axler, Katherine Stewart, Annie-
Laurie Gaylor, Terri Hoye, Melissa Alexander, Faith Gay, Jason Lynch,
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question, what`s next
for Marissa Alexander? She joins us live from her home in Florida. And
churches making their way into public schools.
Plus the rise of an empire. And Olivia Pope fair. But first, the measles
are back in the United States of America.
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And everybody is getting ready for
the Super Bowl tomorrow. But we`re going to begin this morning with a
different part in the story about Super Bowl XLIX, not the NFL`s
beleaguered commissioner, not the air pressure in the balls or the
predictive spread of the game. We begin this morning with America`s most
watched sporting event and the measles.
The Centers for Disease Control and prevention declared in 2000 that
Measles has been eliminated in the United States joining the likes of other
infectious diseases like polio and malaria. And yet here we are 15 years
later with all the headlines are all about the latest measles outbreak.
This one traced to the Disneyland amusement park in Anaheim, California.
More than 100 people in 14 states have been sickened in connection with
These are headlines from another time. A time when getting the measles in
the U.S. was a near universal experience. Before the measles vaccine
became available in the mid-1960s, more than 90 percent of Americans had
had the measles by the time they were 15 years old. Measles is one of the
most contagious diseases in the world. If you have measles, 90 percent of
the people who aren`t inoculated around you are also going to get it. It
is for real and it is miserable. Measles is marked by a high fever, rash
all over the body, coughing, and red and watery eyes and extremely
sensitive to light and frankly, it just sucks.
Most people make it through OK, but some develop serious complications,
pneumonia swelling of the brain or ear infections that can cause deafness.
One or two in every thousand children who get the measles will die from it.
In the years right before the vaccine became available, measles was so
widespread in the U.S. the relatively low death rate translated to about
450 deaths a year. And then the vaccine came along and was eventually made
mandatory for school children. For years, the annual number of cases in
the U.S. was averaging about 60. Nearly all of them cases of people
bringing the measles home from another country. Because in the rest of the
world, measles is still a real threat with about 20 million cases a year.
In 2013, more than 145,000 people around the world died from the measles.
In the U.S., it`s still rare. But recent outbreaks have alarmed public
health officials. 2014 was the worst year for measles since the disease
was officially eliminated in 2000. There were 644 cases last year. The
majority of the cases occurred in Ohio after a missionary returned from the
Philippines to his Amish community where many children had not been
vaccinated. Now, luckily, no one died and health officials were able to
give vaccines to 12,000 people in the area and keep the outbreak under
Now in 2015 there are more than 100 cases of measles associated with the
Disneyland outbreak. More than cases in a month than the U.S. was seeing
over an entire year on average. Just a few years ago. And it`s important
to know that no deaths have been associated with this outbreak. In fact,
there have been no measles deaths in the United States since 2003. And
most of the people who have gotten the measles were not vaccinated against
The outbreak is not contained o to California, but has in fact spread to 13
other states. Arizona, where hundreds of thousands of people are
converging for the Super Bowl in Phoenix is one of them.
Joining us now from the site of the Super Bowl in Phoenix is NBC News`s
Craig Melvin. Craig, tell us how are Phoenix helped officials deal with a
threat like this of such a contagious disease at such a big event?
CRAIG MELVIN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Melissa, typically
security is the big story here. How officials are gearing up to protect
people at the Super Bowl, but this year, as you indicated, the measles
outbreak just as big of a story. That`s because in just the past few days
in California alone, we have seen at least 12 new cases. 7 confirmed cases
so far in the state of Arizona. So you`ve got seven cases in Arizona,
where I`m, Maricopa County, two confirmed cases. Arizona health officials
are also looking at roughly a thousand people, these are a thousand people
who have been identified, they are being monitored right now because health
officials say they have or they believe that these folks have come in
contact with the measles.
So officials here are doing a number of things. Three things specifically
we want to highlight right now for you this morning. There are several
first aid stations inside University of Phoenix Stadium behind me. Health
officials are going to be monitoring those first aid stations. They will
be reporting from those first aid stations if they see anyone that`s
demonstrating signs that they may have the measles. They will be there -
they`ll be sharing that information. They will also be monitoring
drugstore purchases as well. They are tracking purchases at drugstores,
not just here in Maricopa County, all over Arizona, all over the
surrounding area, especially we are told.
And they will also be communicating with hotels and hospitals. So public
health officials on high alert, as you indicated, but they`ve also - they
also want to make sure folks realize that they are not in crisis mode just
yet, they are not in panic mode just yet, but they are taking additional
precautions. Precautions far and above what they normally do at an event
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to NBC`s Craig Melvin in Glendale, Arizona. We`re
going to talk to you again tomorrow on Super Bowl Sunday.
And joining me now is Gail Shust, pediatric infectious disease specialist
at Kravis Children`s Hospital at Mount Sinai and assistant professor of
pediatrics and infectious diseases at the Icahn School of Medicine. So
Doctor Shust, I think, you know, we were even sort of wrestling with this a
little bit as a team. This seems like a real outbreak, an important one.
It is actually in the state where the Super Bowl is, but we want to be able
to talk about preparation without creating public panic.
So help me as a physician who understands infectious diseases to understand
where we are with this current measles outbreak. How worried should we be?
DR. GAIL SHUST, KRAVIS CHILDREN`S HOSPITAL: Well, I think you gave a great
summary at the beginning of the show. Right now, nobody has died from the
measles. Over 100 people have been infected with the measles, and we don`t
know who will go on to become very, very sick. So, it is something to be
concerned about. It`s not something where everybody should stay home and
lock their doors, but people who haven`t been vaccinated should get
vaccinated. It`s the best protection against measles.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, can you be vaccinated if you are now an adult? I mean I
know this is part of kind of the panel of pediatric vaccinations, but, you
know, if I`m 30 and I`ve never been vaccinated, can I go get vaccinated now
and if so, how long until it will be protected for me?
SHUST: You absolutely can. And it does take a few weeks until the effects
from the immune system would start to happen.
HARRIS-PERRY: So help me to understand, then, why this happens. If in
2000, 15 years ago, we`re sort of saying, you know what, this is as over as
polio. How is it that you know, you go to Disneyland and more than 100
people end up with measles?
SHUST: Well, chances are that the initial case came in from another
country. And then there are now pockets of certain communities throughout
our country who are not vaccinating their children. So, through
vaccination some people are dependent on what`s called herd immunity.
Meaning, it`s OK that I`m not vaccinated because everybody around me is
In order for herd immunity to work, you need a certain percentage of the
population to be vaccinated, around 90 or 95 percent. Now, with more
people choosing or unable to get the vaccine, that percentage is going down
so somebody comes to Disneyland, they have the measles, they might not even
realize they have the measles yet. They expose people who are unimmunized
and then those people get it and pass it on to other people. And as you
mentioned, if you`re exposed to somebody with the measles and you are not
immunized against it, you have about a 90 percent chance of getting the
measles. It`s very contagious.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, it`s just coming into contact. It`s not that you
have to handle bodily fluids or something. It some other kind - like it
really is casual contact?
SHUST: It can be - It`s through respiratory, so somebody sneezes or
somebody coughs, but it can also last on surfaces for up to two hours. So
if somebody coughed on this table and then somebody were to touch this
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh ..
SHUST: Touch their nose .
HARRIS-PERRY: Anywhere, right, or your schoolyard or, you know, a public
restroom. I don`t mean to pick on (INAUDIBLE), but just said, you know,
obviously those are the kinds of spaces where we can see it happening.
SHUST: Of course.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, talk to me - one more thing here, then. We heard from
Craig Melvin that they are going to be monitoring drugstore purchases. And
I heard you say that you might be contagious before you even know that you
have it. So, what are the early symptoms? When should I get, you know,
particularly about not inoculated, where should I be worried about it?
SHUST: The problem I guess in terms of the transmission is from four days
before you have the rash until about four days after you have the rash,
you`re infectious. So, you might not know that you even have the measles.
The beginning stages of it are more like flu-like symptoms or a bad cold
like a cough or a stuffy nose. Red eyes, like you mentioned. So, in this
environment now, we should be thinking with those things could be the
measles and then you get that classic rash that usually starts on the head
and travels down the body.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, very last question. I know a lot of people choose not
to get vaccinated because - their children vaccinated because they are
worried that there are negative impacts, particularly autism. Does the
medical community think that that is true?
SHUST: The overwhelming scientific evidence has shown that there is no
link between autism and vaccines. And I think it`s important for the
medical community to provide good information for people because there`s a
lot of not so great information out there, particularly on the Internet and
social media. So, I think it`s part of our responsibility to help spread
the word and say vaccines are important, they work and they are safe.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Dr. Gail Shust. And I do want to bring you
some good news. At least one aspect of the daily routine and normalcy is
returning for children living in one of the West African countries that was
most ravaged by the Ebola outbreak. Officials in Liberia decided to reopen
the country`s 5,000 schools attended by 1 million children. This
development follows the encouraging news that there were 99 confirmed new
cases last week in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone combined. That`s the
lowest number since June.
The Liberian classrooms closed last July and there are plans to reopen
slowly to prevent a flare up of the disease.
Up next, how expanding Medicaid looks for a Republican governor with dreams
And don`t go anywhere because later a report on the growing movement to get
churches especially Christian evangelical churches into every public school
nationwide. We`re going to be right back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Indiana Governor Mike Pence learned this week that state-run
media, not such a good phrase. Just days after Indiana media reported Mr.
Pence was launching a state-run news organization called "Just IN", not to
be confused with my colleague`s Chris Hayes`s great show "All In", well,
just days after announcing "Just IN", Pence was forced to backpedal and
hard. Pence said Thursday he was spiking his plans for what some were
calling his "Pravda on the Plains," referring to the infamous Soviet paper
that was a mouthpiece for the ruling communist party.
Before it even got a chance to live, "Just IN" is just dead. Now here`s
another phrase that just a little while ago would have been political
kryptonite for a Republican governor like Pence. "I am expanding Medicaid,
just like President Obama wants me to." And yet Mr. Pence found himself
saying just that, maybe not those exact words, but on Tuesday when he
announced that he and the Obama administration had struck a deal on
"Indiana will expand Medicaid to up to 350,000 people who are either under
the poverty line or just above it." But it will do it Pence`s way by
charging premiums to some Medicaid beneficiaries and suspending their
coverage if they don`t pay.
Joining me from Washington, D.C. is Igor Volsky who is deputy editor for
ThinkProgress. So, Igor, am I supposed to be happy that we`re expanding
Medicaid or unhappy because of how it`s happening? Is this good or bad?
IGOR VOLSKY, DEPUTY EDITOR, THINKRPOGRESS.COM: Well, it`s definitely a
mixed bag. And I think for a lot of people they will get care that they
otherwise wouldn`t have gotten, and that`s good news. The question is for
low-income hosiers, the ones that are going to be benefitting from this
program, is this contribution that he`s asking to pay towards a health
savings account, co-payments that he`s asking for certain services, will
that keep them away from essential care? And we know from experience in
other states, from other studies, that in fact, it has in the past.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so pause, so that folks who are at home can really
understand what we`re talking about here. When you say premiums, what kind
of expense are you talking about? How much is the government asking for in
this case to pay for the Medicaid and what happens if you don`t pay it?
VOLSKY: Well, Pence has this theory that if people just have more skin in
the game, if they contribute something to the system, they will use their
health care dollars more wisely. So under his program people pay between
$1 to $27 in a sliding scale, based on where you are in your income,
towards a health savings account that`s tax free. That they can then later
use. If they can`t afford that, they go into kind of a different layer of
the program, where they will pay co-payments on certain kinds of benefits,
there`ll be limits on certain kinds of benefits. And if they can`t do
that, if they miss a payment, they are locked out of the program for about
So he`s saying look, we can`t just give people free care. They overuse
care, they - there`s unnecessary care, they spend, spend, spend. We have
got to make sure they use those health care dollars wisely. Let`s make
sure they put in some money into the program.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So that strikes me as a more ideological than budgetary
issue. In other words, I know that there`s been angst about - from the
Republican governors about this idea of Medicaid expansion because the idea
that at some point it`s going to be too expensive for the states to
actually manage on their own. But the amount of money you`re talking
about, $1 to $25 from poor households, might make a big difference for the
poor households, but it`s not going to make that big a difference for the
state, right? This isn`t closing that Medicaid expanse. This is about
ideology, right? Making more people pay.
VOLSKY: Well, yeah, and you know, the numbers don`t work out. I mean you
are absolutely right about the budget because 5 percent of beneficiaries
use about 50 percent of the health care dollars. These are people who are
really sick. That`s where all of our spending is. For them, putting a
couple of dollars into health savings account won`t do anything, they`ll
blow through those dollars.
That`s not how you manage all of the costs. So, maybe for some healthier
people who don`t really use this care, maybe they will use their health
care dollars more wisely, but that`s really a drop in the bucket if you`re
talking about really controlling health care spending. And yes, if you`re
a low income person and you`re weighing health care or food or other
essentials, you will often say, let me put off that medication, let me put
off that procedure to get the food or something else. And then you become
sick or you go back into the system and you cost the system even more.
HARRIS-PERRY: I just want to listen to one thing that Governor Pence said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MIKE PENCE (R) INDIANA: Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0 is a victory for the
working poor in Indiana. Hard working hosiers who currently don`t have
access to coverage that they can afford. But also, HIP 2.0 is a victory
for Medicaid reform. And I believe it could well become a model for states
across the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Igor, do we want it to become a model for states across the
VOLSKY: Well, certainly other conservative states are looking at it and
saying - can I - conservative governor, I think, has a lot of advantages,
so saying can I put my stamp on it, accept these dollars and kind of still
have a lot of credibility with the Republican voters? But yes, should the
federal government be entering into these partnerships? I mean we`ll see
how this works in Indiana. Other experiences say it actually, again, you
know, makes people not use the care they need.
HARRIS-PERRY: Igor Volsky in Washington, thank you so much for joining us
VOLSKY: Thank You.
HARRIS-PERRY: And coming up, the revolt on sorority row.
But up next, a wrong finally made right.
HARRIS-PERRY: On this day in 1961 the arrest of a group of college
students at a lunch counter marked a critical turning point in the strategy
of the civil rights movement. The students mostly from the now closed
Friendship Junior College in South Carolina were part of the wave of young
African American activists across the country who risked arrests, beatings
and worse to test Jim Crow segregation laws at restaurants and other public
facilities. The men set out to integrate the lunch counter at a Five and
Dime store known as McCrory in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLARENCE GRAHAM, FRIENDSHIP NINE" MEMBER: In 1961 we`ll move downtown, it
was we - we were not looking for any hero worship. We were simply ten
students who was tired of the status quo. Tired of being treated like
second-class citizens. Tired of being spat on, kicked, called the N-word,
drinking out of the colored water fountain. We got tired of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: For their bravery, the men were promptly dragged out of the
store and arrested. But instead of paying their $100 bail, they chose to
serve their 30-day sentence of hard labor, shoveling sand at a county
prison camp. The Friendship Nine, as they were called, were the first of
the sit-in participants to insist on doing jail time. They felt it better
to serve their time than to pay money into a system that supported
It became known as the jail no bail strategy. And it was quickly adopted
by other activists, and it became an effective tool in the civil rights
fight, because it helped ease the burden of high court fees while also
embarrassing local southern officials.
For decades the Friendship Nine`s place in history was nearly forgotten.
Even though their arrest record was not. That is until this week. More
than a half century after their arrest, the eight surviving members of the
Friendship Nine were back in a packed South Carolina courtroom Wednesday,
but this time it was to hear a judge overturn their convictions and a
prosecutor offer an apology.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN BRACKETT, PROSECUTOR: Today as solicitor for York County, I
represent the state. So allow me to take this opportunity to extend to
each of you my heartfelt apologies for what happened to you in 1961. It
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: This morning for the first time since their sentences were
vacated, the Friendship Nine had breakfast at the same restaurant location
where they took a stand by taking a seat and changing the course of a
movement. On this day, January 31st, 1961.
HARRIS-PERRY: February 22nd, 1992. That`s the name I became a member of
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. I was and am proud to be part of this
sorority because our founding is rooted in social, political and economic
engagement in black communities. So when I saw this photograph go viral, I
felt proud. It is a picture from a Dallas newspaper of one of my young
sororis (ph) wearing our letters while being detained during a protest of
grand jury decisions not to indict officers who were involved in the deaths
of Michael Brown or Eric Garner.
Those were publicly standing up to say black life matters seems perfectly
consistent with our legacy to me. I was outraged when in the aftermath of
this photograph, Delta`s national leadership along with that of other
historically black sororities, Alpha, Kappa, Alpha and Sigma Gamma Rho,
issued a warning to members not to wear their Greek letters while
protesting. AKA later reversed their decision.
Now, sororities are not perfect. But it seems to me they are at their best
when they empower young women through sisterhood and collective action, not
when they seek to silence them. Which is why recent actions by National
PanHellenic Council President of Sororities with chapters at the University
of Virginia is troubling. On January 20th they sent a letter to UVA`s 16
sorority chapters urging them not to participate in boys` bid night, the
night when fraternities welcome new members. A UVA this night historically
has been a night sorority women visit their fraternity friends to
celebrate. No, a frat party is not the same thing as a rally to question
police tactics and assert the value of black lives, but stay with me for a
moment. Following the "Rolling Stone" magazine cover about sexual assault,
the article in November, UVA had suspended all sorority and fraternity
activities and that ban just ended earlier this month.
And while a frat party may not be the same thing as a protest, there is
something strange about national sororities telling their chapter members
not to socialize with the men on their campus. Is it supposed to be a
message about personal safety? Is the answer to the threat of sexual
assault that young women on her college campus should just stay inside?
Sorority members responded with anger and outrage. In a letter of action,
Kappa Delta Sorority members said, quote, our concerns lie in the way
sorority women are being used as leverage to change the actions and
behaviors of fraternity men. A petition started by a sorority member
against the bid night ban says it is degrading to sorority women and that
it sends the message they are weak.
Now, clearly, we have an interest in speaking with a member of the UVA
sorority community about this story, and we issue many invitations to many
sororities and to their members. Most decline to appear on the program,
but we did confirm an interview with one young woman yesterday afternoon.
However, she informed us this this morning she would no longer be able to
appear due to a scheduling conflict. However, I`m pleased to be joined now
from Richmond, Virginia, by UVA student and representative body chair
Abraham Axler, very nice to see you, Abraham.
ABRAHAM AXLER: It`s great to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Abraham, start by telling me, do you know if any of
those PanHellenic sororities or in fraternities actually issued statements
to the men about issues of either sexual assault or alcohol abuse in
advance of this weekend?
ABRAHAM AXLER, UVA REPRESENTATIVE BODY CHAIR: To the men, the fraternity
men, there`s been no communication. My understanding is that there`s been
some informal communication through the nationals, through the chapter
presidents to the membership. But I`ve really been appalled by the lack of
transparency by the national organizations.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Abraham, just quickly, to be clear, are you in a
fraternity at the University of Virginia?
AXLER: No, I don`t have that pleasure, but I`m a great admirer of the
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so tell me, in the role that you`re in within the
context of student leadership, what have you seen in this past week in
terms of campus reactions about the PanHellenic letter?
AXLER: Well, I think what we have seen is a gross affront of student self-
governments. And this is a value very dear to us at the University of
Virginia. And I think when you insult the ability of young women as
responsible actors to make their own decision, I think you are going to see
people who are quite upset.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, when you say upset, I guess, tell me a bit about that.
You know, obviously, the University of Virginia, it`s the place I have deep
history, I grew up in Charlottesville, my dad taught at the University of
Virginia for several decades. And so, I think it was a painful moment when
the "Rolling Stone" article came out and then sort of all of the
controversy on the back end of it. So, talk to me a little bit about sort
of how this moment compares to that kind of broader thing that`s been going
on for months now on campus.
AXLER: It`s without a doubt, a chaotic emotional time. I think the
difference here is that the actor that is I think acting inappropriately is
this national organizations. And I think what makes such a big distinction
is that many, many women are afraid to speak out. And to me that is deeply
disturbing. From organizations that are purported to empower women, I
think, in many ways, they do empower women, provide them a safe supportive
environment, a social environment, housing, but it`s a little bit troubling
to me that how restricted their voices are in this instance.
I think that`s where student council could come in and help and really
advocate for these women. I mean I had a lot of Greek women come up to me
with their concerns and that`s what led us to cosponsor and pass this
resolution on the self-governance of sorority women.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me about that emergency, Students Council Bill that you
did in fact co-sponsor.
AXLER: Well, it was a special session of student council. And it really
had two goals. The first goal was to invite the national organizations to
come and have a conversation. You know, I think very few sorority leaders
would disagree that boys - but not needed some element of moderation. But
I think virtually everybody agrees that there needed to be dialogue before
that happened. And really what we wanted to do is we want to codify that
student concern. Right? All of our meetings of the public record of the
state of Virginia, and it was critically important to me that that public
testimony from my Greek constituents was heard and it was really heard
HARRIS-PERRY: So I appreciate so much, you know, this idea of being in
dialogue. I do want to read this - another statement that came from the
National PanHellenic Conference saying, "While we value the input our
chapter leaders have to offer on this important ongoing dialogue, our
members` safety and well-being must remain our top priority. That is we
stand by the collective decision of our 16 international presidents, which
supports an existing NPC policy that our organizations will not participate
in men`s bid day activities on any campus. For our members` request, we
will engage directly with our respected chapters to address their concerns
and move forward from here. Sounds to me, Abraham, like at the core here
is a need to have conversation and dialogue and do the work of, as you
said, student self-governance. Thank you to Abraham Axler in Richmond,
Virginia, I appreciate you joining us this morning.
AXLER: Thanks for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: And up next, a new nation report is saying that evangelical
Christians are taking advantage of publicly-funded spaces.
And still to come, one of Marissa Alexander`s first interviews since her
release from prison. I`m so happy she`s going to talk with us.
HARRIS-PERRY: America`s public schools have been dealing with budget
shortfalls, financial crises, sequestration and all manner of economic hard
times. In the 2012 report more than 80 percent of school administrators
described their district as being inadequately funded. So what do schools
in need do? Maybe have a bake sale for band costumes or get local
businesses to donate for a fundraising raffle. Car wash, anyone? How
about turning your school building into a church on weekends? That`s
precisely what an increasing number of schools across the country are doing
according to a new report by Katherine Stewart for "The Nation"
provocatively titled, "The Movement to Put a Church in Every School is
Growing." In her report on Florida`s Apopka High School, Stewart writes,
"The fusion of church and school comes at a time not coincidentally when
public schools are under severe financial pressure. The cuts have been
filled deeply by students who complain of overcrowded classrooms,
insufficient textbooks and supplies and the lack of funding for extras,
such as music and drama.
In 2012 facing steep budget cuts, Orange County school superintendent
Barbara Jenkins announced an extended outreach to faith organizations.
Faith organizations is a nice, broad, nonsectarian term, but the stark
reality is this. Public schools are nearly exclusively partnered with
evangelical Christian churches and this is a growing and purposeful
national effort by some Christian groups and churches to tie public schools
closely to churches through shared space, funded organizational activities
and religious practices that end up infusing school culture. The question
for all of us is this harmless and wholesome pairing of school and
community or does planting a church in every school effectively establish a
state-sponsored religion that runs afoul of our First Amendment?
Joining me now Annie-Laurie Gaylor is co-president of the Freedom from
Religion Foundation. And Katherine Stewart is a contributor to "The
Nation" and author of "The Good News Club." So, and this is your
reporting. Tell me what you see as the fundamental major issue here.
KATHERINE STEWART, CONTRIBUTOR, THE NATION: Well, there are three major
issue here. The first is that once the churches enter the public school,
they often find a way to involve themselves with the lives of the school in
inappropriate ways. For instance, leaving - I`ll tell you a story about
how when we sent our children to a public school that had an Evangelical
church in it, they would hand out candy outside the school and invite the
children to attend the church at their school. And so I decided to attend
the church at school. And our children had put their pictures and their
names and made little posters of themselves and those posters were all
around the school. So I went to the service and the pastor said notice the
names of the children on the pieces of paper. Pray for them, pray that the
families of this school and those children will come to know Jesus and say
that this is a house of god. So there I am mandated by law to send my
children to a public school in this district where their images and their
names are going to get mixed up in a religion and the rituals of a
religion, and this to me is an inappropriate mixing of - inappropriate
mixing of religion and government.
So there are other ways that they do that. For instance, the church in
question left their signage all over the auditorium. Now, McDonald`s isn`t
allowed to come around and leave their signage all over the auditorium. So
children, in the mind of children, it conflates the authority of a
particular religion - I mean it inflates authority of the public school,
which has a kind of a cloak of authority in the mind of a children with a
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so this idea, some of the language used that I think is
important to think about here, is the kind of mandate, the idea that we
have a responsibility to educate our children and that we have a right to
free public education, of course, or at least sort of, at this point.
So talk to me, then, I mean there`s a part of me that thinks, OK, I mean I
grew up in the south where southern identity and religious Christian
identity is going to be pretty constituent of each other in important ways
culturally. So, is there a way for churches to be volunteering? For
example, hopefully handing out bananas and apples and not candy before
school, for goodness sake, but doing volunteer work without kind of
generating this kind of anxiety or is there no way?
ANNIE LAURIE GAYLOR, CO-PRES., FREEDOM FROM RELIGION FOUNDATION: I don`t
think that they should be volunteering on behalf of a church. There`s
nothing wrong with members of a church volunteering and mentoring if they
are vetted and can contribute, but it shouldn`t be for the ulterior motive
of having the church name on their name badge. There should be no mixing
of church and public schools. And for more than almost 40 years one of the
most common complaints that we handle at the Freedom from Religion
Foundation is the use of public school buildings by churches. And it`s a
constant problem. People are shocked to discover that there are worship
services going on in their churches - in their schools. They think it adds
the appearance of endorsement. They think that even the public school
system might be putting it on, but what we are now seeing as Katherine`s
article showed, and it was our complaint in Apopka High School in Orange
County schools in Florida, we are seeing this actual predation, planting
churches in every school. The goal to really turn the school into a
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this idea of predation, and as you write about in the
piece, this idea that there is, in fact, an effort, right? And one that we
can see. We`re just still kind of looking at the MyVenueChurch.org
website. And it says, parting with schools and communities to serve
students - I think, fine, right? And families to gain the privileges of
sharing the love of Jesus for eternal impact." And I think it is that kind
of last piece, the privilege of sharing the love of Jesus for eternal
impact, which is certainly something that people have a free and full right
to believe, but in this country, we have not believed that our country
should be establishing as a matter of public tax dollars that kind of
STEWART: Well, this is the problem. A lot of times the churches in
question are really not paying any kind of substantial money to be
operating in those public schools. They might be paying $100 a week. Or a
couple of hundred dollars a week. This doesn`t begin to approximate the
amount of money it would cost if they were funding their own buildings or
even renting in places like movie theaters.
And what they .
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I introduced it, suggesting that this was a kind of
financial boom for the schools, but you`re actually seeing it as a
financial boom for the churches.
STEWART: I think it`s a religious subsidy. Indeed, and if you go to some
of the conferences that are advocating for churches being planted in public
school, they really talk about it being like even - (INAUDIBL) at the head
of the venue church said, if you want to get I think the best value for
your mission money, operate in the public schools.
And so, so basically he also went on this.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, stick with this. Because we`re going to continue on
this a little bit more. And I want to bring in another voice on this a
bit. I also want to ask what did President Obama have to say about all of
Also, do you not miss my live interview with Melissa Alexander, stay with
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I know there`s
some who bristle at the notion that faith has a place in the public square,
but the fact is leaders in both parties have recognized the value of a
partnership between the White House and faith-based groups. The President
Clinton signed legislation that opened the door for faith-based groups to
play a role in a number of areas including helping people move from welfare
to work. And President Bush came in office with a rally or a promise to
rally the army of compassion, establishing a new office of faith-based and
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So that was Senator Obama back in 2008 on the campaign
trail. And he points out faith-based groups have a history of partnering
with government to help those in need. And recent statistics suggest that
our children in public schools may be do need some help. According to the
Southern Education Foundation 51 percent of public school students are now
living in poverty. Should schools turn away a helping hand is extended
from a door of a church?
I want to welcome Terri Hoye to the conversation. She is the minister of
Evangelism and Administration for Norcross First United Methodist Church.
She joins us from Atlanta, Georgia. She is also a strong advocate of
church volunteers, mentoring in public schools. It`s so nice to have you
this way. So they are saying earlier, I`m not sure if you hear earlier
segment, you know, I`m from the south, I live in the south now. It`s a
place where church volunteerism is one of the central ways that like civic
organized life occurs. But then, my guests here at the table have some
very, very real concerns. . So talk to me about how we do the work of
civic engagement without planting churches in tax-paying public spaces.
TERRI HOYE, MINISTER OF EVANGELISM AND ADMINISTRATION, NORCROSS FIRST
UNITED METHODIST CHURCH: Thank you. And thank you for letting me come
this morning to speak on this topic. I will begin by saying that I can
only give you the context of how we operate here in our community. I
understand that there`s situations and maybe things they step over the line
in other communities, but I cannot speak for that. What I can tell you is
what has occurred in our Norcross Community. The statement that Ms.
Stewart made in her article was kind of taken out of context of what I said
at the panel discussion. I have been on staff at Norcross First United
Methodist Church for 25 years and in that 25 years I have seen a lot of
change in our community. At one time, we, Gwinnett County, was one of the
fastest growing communities in the nation. We had folks that are moving
from the city out into the suburbs. We were thriving. Our schools were
doing well. And then we started to see where the community was moving
further north and our community started to change. And now our community
is a 90 percent tax-free lunch, we`re a title one school, we have had
funding that has deteriorated from the state. The teachers, when the
economy crashed, were given furlough days without any pay.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So I know - I mean I get what you`re saying. Right,
there`s been this huge transition. It`s been an economic one. So hold to
me one second, I`ll come back to you. But so let me get you in on a
response to this. She`s - Hoye saying in part that she feels like she was
misrepresented in what she said about what her organization does.
STEWART: The thing about a lot of the Evangelical organizations that are
partnering with the public school is that they are also supporting, they
are representing a fairly politicized form of religion, especially on the
culture war issues. And they are supporting these Tea Party and small
government officials who are seeking to defund public school, not just by
slashing their budgets but also through these voucher programs that
basically deflate public education and siphon money off to private
religious schools, a lot of which have textbooks that are filled with
creationism, and bigotry about other - people from other faith groups.
And so .
HARRIS-PERRY: So, hold for me a second.
So, let me you back in, and then I`ll come to you. Yes.
HOYE: Let me just share how we partner with our schools. Some of our
middle school is right across the street from us. They have very low test
scores. The principal implemented Success Saturdays. And Success
Saturdays, the county was able to fund for the teachers, the staffing to
come in and to enhance the teaching environment to help these students that
were having difficulty in school. However, the county was not able to
provide breakfast. And for many of these children they don`t eat on the
HOYE: And so the churches were asked if we could come in and if we could
provide a breakfast for these students.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so that`s actually super helpful, Ms. Hoye, to see - so
here`s a kind of Saturday program happening, you`re bringing in the
breakfast, which is an important part of it. But so - but can you address
this question of whether or not as part of that there`s also a kind of
missionary piece that`s not just about the service. Is there also an
ideological, or political or religious set? So, is it breakfast and I
would like to tell you about my lord and savior or is it simply a
breakfast? No, I mean I`m serious, I`m wondering as part of that.
HOYE: And I will just tell you from our perspective and for what we do. I
cannot answer churches throughout the United States.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure, right, of course.
HOYE: As far as the churches in our community that partner with our
schools in our school cluster, there`s no underlying reason why we`re
there. We`re called to go in and to love people and to serve. We do not
ask the children to pray. We do not give them a track, we do not give them
any information about the church. For all the students know we are just
individuals that want to help them succeed. And we go in, we serve
breakfast, we clean up and we go.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so Annie-Laurie, then talk to me about that. I
mean that sounds like precisely what we want.
GAYLOR: At Apopka High School in Florida the head of this venue church
that wants to plant a church in every school was named team chaplain of the
football team and believe it or not, chaplain of the bowling team and
holding a religious rally for which he did not pay rent with students
there. Abusive, taking the kids, a team goes to missionize and then they
are claiming, oh, that`s all free speech rights. We`re seeing them move in
on our schools. And it isn`t helping taxpayers when their church is going
on in our schools because it`s really taxpayer subsidy. It`s below market
HARRIS-PERRY: So, unfortunately.
GAYLOR: Thomas Jefferson said no citizen should be compelled to attend or
act or support any place of worship. This is a fundamental principle in
HARRIS-PERRY: So there the question .
GAYLOR: The tax dollars should go to religion.
HARRIS-PERRY: There is no question. This is a fundamental principle as a
result. As a big issue. I do unfortunately am out of time. So, I do have
to thank Terri Hoye of Atlanta, Georgia. I also have to thank here in New
York Katherine Stewart, Annie-Laurie Gaylor, I would love to have all three
of you back, and hopefully at the table together, because this is clearly a
big and important issue.
Coming up next, Marissa Alexander is going to join us live just days after
her release from prison to tell us what`s next for her.
Also, the epic ratings of Empire and Olivia Pope`s Hair. There`s more
Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And it has been
nearly five years since Marissa Alexander was arrested after firing what
she called a warning shot to stop who she said was an abusive estranged
husband who was threatening to end her life.
No one was injured in the shooting, but Alexander`s actions that it day in
August of 2010 just more than a week after she gave birth to her daughter
led to her immediate arrest, conviction and a 20-year prison sentence. Her
story drew national attention and amplified an ongoing debate over the
inequities of Florida`s "Stand Your Ground" law which failed to protect her
from conviction, just months after the law begin receiving so much
attention in association with George Zimmerman`s shooting of Trayvon
Now, while Zimmerman did not use the "Stand Your Ground" defense in his
case, Marissa Alexander did attempt to argue self-defense under the law.
But her claim was rejected in a pretrial hearing after Florida Prosecutor
Angela Corey argued that Alexander could have left the house instead of
firing the shot.
During the trial, Alexander testified to having been repeatedly the victim
of physical abuse at the hands of her estranged husband. While he admitted
in a 2010 deposition to hitting several women, including Alexander, he
later reversed his admission saying his prior statements were an attempt to
A jury took 12 minutes to convict her of three counts of assault with a
deadly weapon. That conviction was overturned in 2013 when an appeals
court ordered a retrial after discovering an error in the instructions to
the jury. But the stakes only got higher for Alexander. When the
prosecution sought to convict her again on the same charges, only this time
seeking a 20-year sentence for each count to be served consecutively
instead of concurrently, which would have put Marissa Alexander behind bars
for 60 years, three times the original sentence.
Instead of facing trial again, she agreed to a plea bargain which this week
finally brought her long ordeal closer to an end. Tuesday, Marissa
Alexander walked out of jail under an agreement that will subject her to
two years of house arrest and electronic surveillance. And while the
sentence means she will remain for now in the supervision of the criminal
justice system with a felony conviction on her record, it also means that
for the first time in five years, a future as a free woman is finally
within her reach.
Marissa Alexander is joining me now from her home in Jacksonville, Florida.
And here in New York with me is Marissa`s attorney, Faith Gay, and host of
MSNBC`s "THE REID REPORT", Joy Reid.
Marissa, I am so thrilled that you have joined us. Can you talk to me now
that you can expect to have some sort of future with a level of freedom?
What are you planning for your years to come?
MARRISA ALEXANDER, JUST RELEASED FROM PRISON: What am I planning to do
with my time?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, what are you planning in the coming years?
ALEXANDER: Well, right now, it`s just to really focus on the development
of my kids. I have a 4-year-old and teenagers. And I believe this is a
crucial time for them as teenagers to try to identify their individuality.
And they have peer pressure and they`re getting ready for college. So, I
really have planned to be available to them, you know, work with their
teachers, that`s something I have always believed in, continue with the
development of my baby.
And then, I would like to attend school, to probably to obtain my paralegal
certificate. And just continue to grow in knowledge. I would like to be
able to explore different opportunities in the legal community as far as
helping other victims in criminal law and dependants.
So, I`m just -- my -- the heart of me is service. I like to help people.
So, that`s what I want to continue to do moving forward. That`s what I did
when I was at the other company that I worked for, for almost 10 years.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, it`s interesting when you bring up this idea
of service and of helping others. And I know sometimes in our darkest
hours, in our greatest struggle, we find kind of surprising allies, people
on our side who we wouldn`t have thought would have been the people in our
corner. Over the course of the past four years, in the ordeal that you`ve
been through, are there any folks standing on your side who you were
surprised to find there?
ALEXANDER: You know, actually to be honest with you, a lot of law
enforcement, I found that they, you know, were on my side. And also people
from overseas, you know, individuals who felt strongly about gun violence
were on my side. So, I was just grateful that anybody could look at it and
say, you know, this is a tragedy for at least a sentence was entirely
egregious. But for the most part, these people that were in the arena that
said, you know, you never know until you have the experience, you know, the
situation that`s eminent threat, but for them to say, I haven`t, but I
still support you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold on for me just one second. I want to come out and
introduce you to Joy Reid. I`m not sure if you had an opportunity to talk
with Ms. Reid before. She`s been one of the people on your side here at
Joy, I`m just wondering. I know you have been reporting on Marissa`s case,
if you want to engage a bit here.
JOY REID, THE REID REPORT: Yes. No, it`s wonderful to talk to you, to
meet you, Marissa. Your case -- you know, when I was at TheGrio.com, this
was one of the cases that was the one people were being most passionate
about. They were very passionate about you.
And I`m wondering if you were surprise by -- or really fully aware of just
how much passion people invested in you? You know, were you able to see
that and did it surprise you? Particularly around the issue of domestic
ALEXANDER: Right, right, when you`re incarcerated, you don`t have a
connection with the outside that you`d normally have if you were at home.
So, I wasn`t really aware of just how passionate or how big this particular
case had gotten, here for a minute (ph). And then sometimes I could tell
from the amount of mail that I would receive so that gave me some type of
perspective. But once I was able to get home and when I was out on bond,
then I realized just how big it was.
And it was -- it was very overwhelming in a great way to see people say, it
might not have happened to me, but I care about somebody else that we`re
connected. All of humanity`s sake was there to just support me and
encourage and say a prayer. So, I was extremely grateful, that helped me
through a lot of days.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Faith, let me ask you about this, because, you know, we
were in Nerdland, in Joy Reid`s world, we`re going to -- you know, we`re
doing -- just our producers are so happy. But I need to ask you, is it
over? Like as a legal matter, is it finally over? Is Marissa Alexander
home with her children, free to pursue her education, her service, her
FAITH GAY, ATTORNEY FOR MARISSA ALEXANDER: Well, she has two years of
community control. And that means there are limited numbers of things she
can do. She can take her kids to school, she can pursue education, she can
go to church, she can do things that are necessary to do with the court`s
permission, but it is limited freedom and she has to, of course, abide by
the court`s rules there.
HARRIS-PERRY: I need to ask you, Marissa, because on this question of
domestic violence. Part of what struck so many of us so closely is how
young your daughter was. You know, I have a baby who is just a year old,
but. The vulnerability in those first days and that first week, there`s
nothing like how you feel as like a mother tiger almost in those first
What do people need to know and understand about fear, about domestic
violence, about the way that having -- being pregnant or having a new
infant can make that worse? What do people need to know from your story,
beyond the law, of the kind of human part of how you were reacting in that
ALEXANDER: OK. Well, I can just tell you this without getting into the
details of what happened that day. Fear is subjective, so to tell someone
what their level of fear is, it`s -- that`s kind of hard to do. For myself
being that you have a newborn that is an infant who is in the NICU, this is
where premature babies go, and to come into contact or the realization that
it`s a possibility that this life that I`m breast-feeding and trying to
make sure I get to the hospital two and three times a day, I need to be
there for her and for anything or to try to separate that is -- I mean,
it`s kind of indescribable. You go into survival mode.
So, for me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, I needed to be there for her that
day. And so, that`s kind of the train of thought goes as a mother.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I understand that, I feel that in my fingertips when
you say it.
Don`t go anywhere, because up next, we`re going to continue this
conversation with Marissa and talk to her about her reunion with this
precious 4-year-old girl.
Still to come, it is the show that Shonda Rhimes watches when she`s not
working on her own. We`re going to discuss the hip-hop dynasty "Empire" in
this week`s installment of "TV Now in Color".
HARRIS-PERRY: This week, the end of Marissa Alexander`s three years in
prison meant for this mother of three, a time of new beginnings, including
yesterday, in what for many parents is the most mundane of moments was so
much sweeter for Alexander, because it was the first time she`s ever been
able to do this -- going to school to pick up her 4-year-old daughter who
was just a baby when Alexander went to jail, allowed under the conditions
of her plea agreement which permitted her to leave home for certain
approved appointments and employment.
And it was a family reunion of sorts that brought Alexander together with
all of her children, including her teenage twin boys.
Marissa, you talk about wanting to do something that might be in the field
of law, helping folks. I`m wondering, what kind of parenting you`ve been
able to do during your years that you have been imprisoned, and whether or
not part of what you might do is actually advocate for parents to be able
to keep that relationship.
ALEXANDER: Well, you know, you have to spend the extra time and effort to
really connect with the kids. And for one thing, my kids were in a
transition of going to teenage years. So, it was a little difficult
because that`s the time when they are into their electronics and your
parents are not as cool. So, when I left, we were in the bed together and,
you know, sleeping together and when I came back, when everybody was on
their cell phones and laptops.
But, you know, one of the things that I did, I continue to write them, I
did call them. I didn`t push them to come and visit if they had things
they wanted to. You know, I wanted to make sure they had some normalcy.
But when I got back home, I realized just how much they missed me. My
teenage daughter had -- you know, because I have twins, that boy and girl
twins, and my teenage daughter had all of my clothes that she was wearing
when I was gone, just my sleeping clothes, because she wanted to feel some
type of closeness to me.
So, those are the things that I did make sure I wrote, I called, and
allowed for them to have a life and not be tied down because I was.
HARRIS-PERRY: Marissa, hold on for me one second.
I need to ask a question that I don`t want to ask to you, but, Joy, I do
want to ask to you, because to hear her talk -- to hear Marissa Alexander
talking that way about her children, I keep thinking and no one was shot,
no one was injured. Can you please rift for a moment on Angela Corey, the
prosecutor, who thought that the most just thing to do was to take this
woman who clearly cares about the welfare of her children in such a mature
and -- I mean, what you want every parent to do away from her children for
REID: Yes. It -- this was truly one of the strangest cases that I have to
say I`ve ever covered, because I know my share of prosecutors personally
that I have dealt with in Florida. I`ve really never seen a prosecutor
more passionate about a single case or more passionate about wanting us --
you and me, people in the media to change the narrative to make Marissa
Alexander the villain. They`re really angry that the media was not
accepting the notion that Rico Gray -- and there were two children in the
She was actually charged with three counts because two of his children were
in the home at the time. So, setting (ph) those two, I mean, obviously,
those are minor children, but that Rico Gray really was the victim here.
So, that, of course, was the state`s case.
REID: That`s the case that they were out and charged to make.
But Prosecutor Corey was really, really passionate that Rico Gray was the
victim and really not necessarily accepting even his own admission of
having battered multiple women as evidence that he might be the villain in
the case. It really did surprise me in the conversations I had had with
her, just how passionately she believed in Rico Gray as the victim.
And I think that colored the passion with which she pursued the case in a
way that I have not seen before.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Faith, then help us out for folks who are advocates, who
are activists around this. It really did get wrapped up in part because
Angela Corey was the same prosecutor on the George Zimmerman case that got
wrapped in this. But is the thing we should be pressing against here,
stand your ground? Is the thing we should be pressing against here, the
mandatory minimums? What`s the thing?
GAY: Well, I think what changed the narrative really in the case was the
helpful ruling that the judge made under a lot of stress here to let in the
domestic violence of Rico against all his prior partners. Whether Marissa
Alexander knew about the violence or not, that kind of evidentiary law is
very helpful to have in the future.
But in terms of your question, I think the real issue is mandatory
minimums. This kind of alleged crime should not be met for a first time
offenders with a 20-year mandatory minimum -- much more important than
stand your ground.
Marissa, I want to give you the final word here. What do we need to know
now that you`re home? What can we do as a people to be most supportive of
you going forward?
ALEXANDER: Well, you know, just continue to, you know, be educated, you
know, support other people. I mean, all the way around when you have an
incident where, you know, people`s lives change and sometimes, they end in
fatality, people are still hurting, you know? So they are impacted in some
kind of way.
So, I think that we can all rally around, you know, supporting those people
and trying to identify ways that we can prevent it and stop being so
reactive to the things after the fact. I think it`s going to be more work
put into the things in the forefront, things that we could be doing prior
to getting to such a tragic end. And that`s everyone, you know, domestic
violence or any type of violence, or any type of criminal activity, you
But as a community, we can educate ourselves on the laws and the lawmakers
because we can get out there and vote, and then we can decide at that point
what these guys what they know about the things that we need and educate
ourselves and vote in the way that supports the views that we have as a
So, those things are going to be huge going forward in the future because
there`s a lot of changes I think can take place. And we as a community
have the power to influence that.
Marissa Alexander in Jacksonville, Florida, in your own voice, in -- I know
you can`t see yourself, but just you transcendent -- you being here this
morning means so much. Thank you so much for having a conversation with
And here in New York, thank you to Faith Gay. Joy is going to stick around
a little bit.
Up next, a political trial balloon pops.
Plus, TV now in color, from the "Rise of Empire" to the return of
"Scandal", you know we`re going to talk about that.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. How many times have you heard in recent months,
probably a lot right here on this network, the words "the invisible
primary"? It`s the presidential primary that isn`t really a presidential
primary. OK. You just zoned out, stay focused on these balloons. Just
watch the balloons.
OK. Right now, no one is technically run in running for president yet. No
one has officially declared a candidacy. What`s happening is even more fun
-- more than a dozen contenders are -- well, they`re floating their trial
balloons. They are testing out campaign messages. They are reaching out
to big money donors. They are traveling overseas to polish up their
foreign policy credentials.
And they are doing all this before they actually run for president, before
they say, hey, I`m getting in. That`s the invisible primary.
Yesterday, whoa, one of those trial balloons popped. A former
Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney told a group
of supporters he is not going to run in 2016. And that leaves a lot of
balloons still up in the air.
Which brings me to our new segment we`re going to call "Stumble and
Tumbles", an opportunity to tell you from time to time about when a little
bit of the air, you know, seems to be leaking out of one of those trial
balloons being floated by the presidential class of 2016. And who better
to kick off our inaugural edition than the person who`s received the most
MHP show letters to date, Louisiana`s Bobby Jindal.
After 2012 midterms, when Republicans started to look for the party`s next
crop of candidates, Governor Jindal worked hard to brand himself as the
GOP`s policy wonk. The Beltway press did its part by helping to establish
that reputation with headline after headline describing Governor Jindal as
a new kind of policy-oriented Republican.
It sounded like Governor Jindal was on to something when he said --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: We`ve got to stop being the stupid
party. I`m serious. It`s time for a new Republican party that talks like
adults. It`s time for us to articulate our plans and visions for America
in real terms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, that sound advice. Why is the governor talking about
a roundly debunked no-go zone in Europe? You see, in a recent speech he
gave at a British think tank, Governor Jindal offered, "In the West, non-
assimilationist Muslims establish enclaves and carry out as much Sharia law
as they can without regard for the laws of the democratic countries which
provided them a new home."
Sharia law in Western countries, you might think, why haven`t I heard about
this? If you watch FOX News, you actually probably have. Recently, that
network`s resident terrorism expert Steve Emerson lamented the
proliferation of no-go zones all over Europe and especially in Great
That prompted this response from none other than British Prime Minister
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: When I heard this, frankly, I
chocked on my porridge and I thought it must be April Fools Day. This guy
is clearly a complete idiot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, to FOX News`s credit, both the network and Steve
Emerson issued an apology for his comments and the coverage of no-go zones.
But you know who didn`t apologize? Governor "stop being the stupid party"
Bobby Jindal. He`s even using the state`s Web site for the governor`s
office to offer a defense there are pockets of Western society governed by
In a recent radio interview, he even said that Western leaders must demand
and insist on assimilation and integration from those who want to come into
our country, and he warned that the dreaded no-go zones might come to
So, as he considers an official campaign for president, Governor Jindal`s
preliminary moves are insulting our European allies, fear mongering here at
home and being a step behind FOX News. Is that Republican nominee material
or his the next balloon to go --
HARRIS-PERRY: TV is now in color. There are a notable number of popular
shows featuring actors of color in lead roles. "Blackish", "Jane the
Virgin", "Fresh of the Boat" which appears -- excuse me, premieres on
Wednesday, and "How to Get Away With Murder."
Not only do they have colorful casts, these shows rate. In fact, "How to
Get Away with Murder" pulled in profit 14 million viewers when it premiered
in September and the show`s lead, Viola Davis, is a fan favorite for her
portrayal of powerful, yet vulnerable, cunning and devious defense
attorney, Annalise Keating. This month, Davis earned the Screen Actors
Guild Award for outstanding performance by a female actor in a drama
And during her acceptance speech last Sunday, Davis stated just how
remarkable her win really is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VIOLA DAVIS, ACTRESS: I`d like to thank Paul Lee, Shonda Rhimes, Betsy
Beers, Bill D`Elia, and Peter Nowalk for thinking that a sexualized, messy,
mysterious woman could be a 49-year-old dark-skinned African-American woman
who looks like me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: While Davis, as show creator Peter Nowalk, and executive
producer Shonda Rhimes, have received a lot of attention for the smash hit,
there`s another show even Shonda has become a fan of, telling her Twitter
followers that she is all about "Empire.", Tweeple. That`s right, we can
add FOX`s new drama "Empire", a series about a music mogul, his hip-hop
dynasty, and his family to our colorful roster.
Now, the series features a cast of critically acclaimed actors and was
created by film producer and director Lee Daniels. It launched on January
7th and took Nielsen boxes by storm. According to the rating agency, the
show earned 9.9 million viewers nits first week and even more tuned in the
second episode, with Nielsen reporting 10.3 million viewers. In the third
week, the numbers ticked up again, with 10.9 million tuning in. And by
week four, most shows tend to lose steam. That just the way it worse.
There might be less buzz, many characters are seen as noble, some viewers
start to taper off. That`s not what happened to "Empire." This week,
instead, 11.3 million viewers tuned in.
This consistent increase is unprecedented in recent TV history. No drama
has picked up more viewers in its second and third weeks in more than two
So, what`s behind the rise of this "Empire" and what has more and more
viewers tuning in each week?
Joining me at the table now, Jason Lynch, Adweek contributor and founder of
TVandnotTV.com. Joy Reid, host of MSNBC`s "The REID REPORT", and Janet
Mock, host of MSNBC`s Shift, "So POPular".
All right. So, I finally watched it. I watched three episodes back to
back. Here`s what I think it is that`s making the people watch the show.
I think you take the existential threat of "Breaking Bad", right, like that
you know from the beginning. You put the musical performances of "Glee",
everybody loves "Glee", you take the strategic power moves of "House of
Cards" and you mash them all together with the satisfying personal drama of
"The Real Housewives", and, of course, everyone will watch it.
JASON LYNCH, CONTRIBUTOR, ADWEEK: Absolutely.
LYNCH: And FOX realized early on that this was a show that had a little
bit of something for everybody. It`s coming on the heels of a disastrous
fall for them when everything tanked except for "Gotham." But they, early
on, knew the potential of "Empire" and they knew, just as you said, that
"The Real Housewives" are going to watch this, that black audiences are
going to watch this, that audiences love high-end dramas would want to
watch this and that "Glee" loving music audiences would want to watch this.
And they managed to come up with a marketing campaign that reached out to
all those audiences, got them in. Once they were in, they started telling
their friends, the Shondas of the world started tweeting about it and
that`s why the ratings have gone up.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. It is kind of stunning thing. I mean, Joy, I know
it`s not your most favorite show on TV, but I want to play this one part
that I thought was kind of -- I don`t know what other show could do this.
It`s this sort of moment where the lead character gets playful with a fake
President Obama who he`s on the phone with. Let`s just play it for a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, I`m so, so sorry. You know how he
feels about you. He loves you. I love you. We all love you. He`s just
young and stupid and had a little too much to drink.
Come on, Barack, you know you don`t have to use that kind of language.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m sorry, the idea --
REID: Come on, Barack. Why you got to be like that?
HARRIS-PERRY: Can you imagine if your child did say something ridiculous
and offensive about President Obama, and it goes viral? You`re just like,
oh, Lord, Mr. President, I`m so sorry.
REID: I know. You know what, I think sort -- those moments of kind of
absurdity. I mean, Jay-Z knows President Obama.
REID: I doubt they had a conversation like that. So, I guess, maybe
(INAUDIBLE). And I`m a little old school. We were trying to figure out my
reference from the `90s. So, I think it`s like more "Fame" meets "New Jack
HARRIS-PERRY: But that would be great. "Fame" meet "New Jack City".
REID: Yes, and --
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m about to produce that.
REID: Yes. And I guess maybe because it`s hard to suspend that much
disbelief for me personally. And that it feels very campy to me. But I
understand why it`s popular. I understand the elements of it are there for
all of these various audiences. I can see why it`s popular. I`m three
episodes in. I`m not sold yet.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Janet, let me ask, because one of the things that
happened, if it was just campy and, you know, then it tries to do a variety
of serious things. I got into it not for what everyone else should, I
suppose get introduced, you know, the Twitters, or whatever, but for
watching your show, and this really kind of careful conversation that you
were having with two of your guests about the representations of a gay
black man, one of the sons is gay and out, or at least out to his family.
And the ways it was like, in the midst of all of this madness, there`s also
something that`s serious that`s supposed to be going on.
Let`s play just a clip of that and then I want to have you talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You never take me anywhere. (INAUDIBLE) homophobia in
the black community.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your sexuality has a choice, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, it`s the problem a mix to happen to deal
with the serious or is that actually the thing that allows more people to
enter in, to do the serious with it?
JANET MOCK, MSNBC`S SHIFT: I think it`s the second part. I think it`s the
idea of we`re going to have all this broom-beating, cookie scenes stealing,
all these other things going on and in the context of that, we`re going to
throw in a black gay man, right, who is unapologetic about his sexuality,
who`s trying to discover himself, who`s trying to navigate community and
identity at the same time.
And so, I think what it does, it forces that 61 percent of African-American
viewers to be confronted with the character that they must acknowledge and
understand its struggles, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: But then also reproducing a notion of this homophobic black
MOCK: Yes. And I think what Michael Arsen (ph) said on "So POPular" was
that, it`s not that the black community is more homophobic. It`s the way
in which it shows up. It has lot to do with black masculinity and the way
that black masculinity is policed in our culture.
I think it`s very hard for a young, black, gay man to be himself in his
community. Even outside of his community.
So, there`s a lot of things to navigate when you`re walking around in terms
of your community and also your identity struggles.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love Michael.
Listen, we`ve got more. We`ve got so much TV. And you know we are going
to a show next that Joy really does love. The inside scoop on "Scandal."
HARRIS-PERRY: Watch the hair because when TV`s super sister producer
Shonda Rhimes wants to signal a shift in her lead character, she`s going to
signal it with the hair.
When "How to Get Away with Murder`s" Viola Davis removes her wig in episode
four, it signals a vulnerability we had not yet seen in Annalise Keating.
This Thursday, the hair to watch was on the head of Nerdland`s favorite,
Olivia Pope. This week, Ms. Pope found herself in some pretty dire and
disgusting conditions of confinement, but being Olivia, the clothes were
still fly, the skin was still dewy, and the brows remained thick.
So, what was the one thing, the one physical manifestation of her
captivity, of her despair and ultimately of her resilient strength and
determination to be free? Her hair.
Back at the table with me are Janet, Jason and Joy.
Janet, did you watch it on Thursday?
MOCK: Did I watch it? Of course, I watched it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Did you watch the hair, do the hair thing?
MOCK: Yes, I did, and I also watched those nails, too, because I don`t
know what kind of manicurist she has on, because Olivia, even in captivity,
the manicure is still on point.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I thought that was important that they didn`t have her
whole self degrade, right? Clearly someone was coming in and threading
every other day in the jail and doing the nails, right, keeping the jail
straight. But the idea of like the black woman`s hair is representing how
long it`s been and sort of where she is psychologically.
MOCK: And I think there`s also an important point too. I think that the
way that Olivia or at least Kerry as an actress navigates aesthetics. I
think that, you know, playing the clip with Viola Davis, there`s a more
realness with Viola Davis`s character that she sheds these layers off in a
And I think it`s because Kerry and Viola have different representations,
right? So, one is called less classically beautiful and the other, by "The
New Yorker" is called a doll, right? One has L`Oreal contracts and
Neutrogena contracts and the other doesn`t. So, I think that the way that
they balance one another back to back is very interesting.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And they are performing these kind of different
aspects of black womanhood, which is also interesting, Joy, when we
connected. If we go back to "Empire" for a moment, because my favorite
person in "Empire" is Cookie. I just find Cookie fascinating. You know, I
called it "Real Housewives", but I actually think she`s way more layered
and interesting than that.
REID: No, definitely. And I would watch a spinoff of "Empire" that was
just Cookie and her assistant. That`s the show that I actually would be
obsessed with, because they are everything. And one of the things that she
actually does bring to the table is this narrative of the protective mama
cub, mama grizzly, right, with her gay son.
And in so many real lives of gay and Hispanic black men, it`s the mom
that`s the protector of the family. I think she`s bringing that to the
table and she shows a vulnerability and a toughness that I think are
important to represent for black women. So, I think she does bring that.
But just real quick on the hair thing, I`ll tell you, Olivia Pope gets
dangerous. So, it goes to show you she had it in her. And I thought, one
of the interesting scenes in that episode was the fact she comes in and
still has the Olivia Pope primness with the toilet.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, yes, yes.
REID: But as she becomes more shorn of all of these adornments of being
Olivia Pope, she becomes more vulnerable too.
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s no one to see you but yourself.
So, Jason, I`m actually interested in this because in part I do see
"Empire" and even some of the kind of TV in color that we have been doing
as barring a little bit from Shonda`s representations of complicated,
powerful, vulnerable black women in all of these kinds of ways. I see that
in "Empire." But there`s also the lead male character being played by
multiple accusations of domestic violence against -- in Terrence Howard.
In other words, there`s been complications with the actual actor, Terrence
Howard`s relationship with black communities, and particularly with women.
And there is this kind of funny, like at the same time that TV in color is
also about these women of color, and then he in that lead gives me these
kind of different feelings about it.
LYNCH: Right, and that infuses the role, because it`s hard to separate the
actor from the role because there are similarities in the violence in their
past and Terrence spoke about it to reporters a few weeks ago and said that
that`s behind me, I`m a different person. But it still fuses what you
think of him when you see him in a role. You know, I think Shonda speaking
to this and tweeting about "Empire" was really important because she`s had
to kind of shoulder this entire thing herself.
It`s one -- it`s really difficult for one person to do. And I think the
fact that she can now share that and have "Empire" in there, have
"Blackish" in there, it`s great for her. It`s great for TV.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. You know, the idea that it`s great for TV, that people
are tuning in and watching it, I was playing with the "Breaking Bad", but
I`m wondering, have these shows learned something from the Netflix ways of
watching that creating a new way of thinking so race and gender aside or
part of it, new ways of thinking how to attract audiences that is different
than sort of before those interventions.
REID: Yes, I think also because of the shrinking audience overall, trying
to get a hit series is a lot harder because they have so many choices other
than network TV. But you`re starting to see the networks come back in a
big way. ABC has been a big leader in creating quality programming that`s
competing with the Netflix and competing with these new mediums because
they realize the audience for broadcast TV is very heavily black women.
Very -- you know, we`re an oversample in that audience and also on things
like Twitter. If you can bring that audience to the table, you get both of
those two things.
HARRIS-PERRY: The social media part was what was happening when I was
watching it. Not only was everyone watching the show, we were watching
each other watching it in a way that doesn`t happen with the on demand
MOCK: It`s also the pressure to show up, right? You have to show up in
communities and you have to watch live. I was talking to Jason about this
in the green room. It`s the idea that when "Scandal" is on, "Empire" is
on, I have to show up with my community and put my thoughts out there. I
heard you. You (INAUDIBLE)
HARRIS-PERRY: I was like Olivia Pope should live, don`t talk to Ian. Yes,
MOCK: But it`s the idea what you said. And I think that`s what`s so
powerful is an example that 61 percent is that African-American is watching
is that we can make hits on network television alone when we have shows
that reflect this and that we actually love.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it`s a new power for the viewer then, particularly for
the viewer of the color.
LYNCH: Yes, I believe so. And one other point how FOX doing what Netflix
has done, it`s part of FOX`s marketing campaign, was if you miss a show, go
to VOD. They have an agreement with the studio that every episode of that
season will be available to go back. So, even, if before episode 12, you
can go back to fox.com, and you can start watching from the beginning. So
that`s absolutely a lesson they have taken.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I mean, I certainly -- you know, I hadn`t caught up
with it yet so I binge watched last night and being able to do did in fact
draw in. I would totally watch "Fame" meets "New Jack City".
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to -- I`m going to go cast it right now. Thank
you to Jason Lynch and Joy Reid and also to Janet Mock.
Please do not forget to tune in to Joy`s show right here on MSNBC, "THE
REID REPORT", weekdays at 2:00 p.m. Feel free to tweet that, too. And do
not Janet Mock`s show "So POPular" on Shift by MSNBC, Fridays at 11:00 a.m.
Up next, a designer who mixes style and diversity, the combination since
Romaine coke. We`ll explain when your foot shoulder joins us live.
HARRIS-PERRY: In 2013, designer Courtney Smith left the world of finance
to fill what she saw as an urgent dual need, to create stylish, affordable
retail fashion for women of all sizes and, more specifically, to emphasize
the beauty of women of color.
Her line is called Rum and Coke. And its advertising campaign has featured
only plus-size models of color, an aesthetic foreign to most runways in
high-fashion magazines. In a recent interview with fashion Web site
Refinery 29, she said, "No one questions why there are only small women in
other brands` shoots. I put women of color and larger women in my photo
shoots for many reasons. One, because I believe in the multiplicity of
beauty, and, two, so many women seldom see women like themselves in
Joining me now with what she calls a new perspective is Courtney Smith, our
foot soldier of the week.
Everyone here loves on the Nerdland productive staff loves your stuff. So,
tell me, what is sexy for you? What is the sexiest setting?
COURTNEY SMITH, OWNER/DESIGNER, RUM + COKE: Sexy is all about confidence
for me. You can wear whatever you want. But as long as you have that
confidence, you`ll feel sexy. And that can be pretty much anything.
If you`re going to a gala and you have a gown on, you don`t want to feel
self-conscious about it. You want to fell like, yeah, I`m the boss, I feel
good, I have my Olivia Pope on.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, exactly. So I love this idea that you were in
finance. You saw a need and you decided to sort of enter into the world.
What inspires that? At what moment are you like -- is it because you were
drinking rum and coke? What inspired this move?
SMITH: Well, I was -- I really -- after graduating from Williams, I really
wanted to be in finance -- well, I thought that`s what I wanted to do. And
as I was going to the interviews, I hated what I had on. Like, I would go
shopping and I hated the pants, I hated the blazers, I hated the dresses.
And I was saying to myself, I`d made my own suit, I`d change this, change
that. And then one day, you know, I started interning for another designer
who`s been amazing, been my mentor. And we kind of -- she kind of groomed
me on what to do. And then I went out on my own. I was like, you know
what, I can do this, I can create my own line, created what I wanted to see
in the world.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this idea of what you want to see in the world and that
the models you`re using are in part because there are so many of us who
don`t see ourselves reflected. Do you hear from women about how not only
your clothes but even just the advertisements for your clothes make them
SMITH: Yes, definitely. Most of my e-mails are, thank you for
acknowledging that I`m beautiful, thank you for seeing me, thank you for
acknowledging my presence, my being.
And then I get e-mails from husbands like, hey, I want this dress for my
wife. She`s a beautiful woman. And she never sees herself as a beautiful
woman. And I want to buy this for her.
So, that`s been the most amazing part about all this.
HARRIS-PERRY: If you could pick one or two beautiful women that you would
like to see in your clothes, who would be the top picks for you?
SMITH: Definitely Beyonce.
SMITH: Love her!
SMITH: And I love Oprah. I love Taraji. I love Viola. I scream for
these women. I scream for Eva DuVernay, Laverne Cox. I love these women.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love it.
SMITH: I would love them to wear anything.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`d love to see all of them in your clothes and also the
first lady in some Rum + Coke. Yes, wouldn`t that -- all that would happen
and be great.
Thank you to Courtney Smith. Thank you both for your work and for joining
us here today.
SMITH: Thank you for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s our show. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m
going to see you tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Super Bowl Sunday
and Dave Zirin is going to be here for the annual tradition of all sports
talk. You know, I will chat a little bit about NFL commissioner Roger
Goodell and this burning question --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Can you envision any set of circumstances which would lead you
to resigning or being fired as your job as commissioner?
ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: No, I can`t. I -- does that surprise
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX
WITT." Hi, Alex.
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