Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: February 16, 2015
Guest: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Randy Fitzwater, Marcus Constantino
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, man.
HAYES: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
Tonight is the night of our Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
interview. Very excited about that. That is coming up. I`m very excited.
It`s been making for a very happy Monday around here all day.
Although, here, today, I should tell you as in most of the country,
today has been very, very cold. Cold to the point of uncomfortable.
Record breaking cold. The city of Boston is now buried in more than eight
feet of snow with yet more on the way. Places like Kentucky, and Virginia,
and even Little Rock, Arkansas, got walloped today, ice and snow.
I went ice fishing in New Hampshire this weekend. It was really,
really, really, really cold ice fishing. That`s sort of the point of ice
But even in the middle of a frozen lake in New England, ice fishing on
Saturday, it was still not as cold where I caught that finish as it was in
downtown Madison, Wisconsin, where a large number of people were out in the
cold not fishing, but rather protesting against Wisconsin Governor Scott
Walker. It was minus 13 or something with the wind-chill when this big
protest happened against Scott Walker this weekend in Madison, specifically
about what he is proposing to do to public universities in Wisconsin.
The governor`s budget proposal for that state this year includes a
$300 million cut from the University of Wisconsin system. $300 million
just sort of sounds like a big round number that doesn`t necessarily mean
anything on it`s face. To put it in perspective, the chancellor of the
University of Wisconsin at Madison, which is the flagship campus for that
system, and also I should say, one of the finest public universities
anywhere in the country or in the world, the chancellor of the Madison
campus says that if she just outright eliminates the school of nursing, and
the law school, and the business school, and the pharmacy school, and the
school of veterinary medicine, if she outright eliminates all of those
schools from the Madison campus, that still would not be enough to make up
for what Scott Walker wants to make up from that campus. Wow.
At the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, which is an urban campus
in that system, their share of the Scott Walker cuts they say it would be
equal to eliminating the school of public health, and the school of
information studies, and the school of social welfare and the whole
engineering school. That will get you close to what Scott Walker wants to
cut from that campus.
The University of Wisconsin is a beacon for that whole part of the
country in terms of higher education. I mean, one of the things they`re
known for nationwide is the outstanding quality of their public higher
public education. It`s their claim to fame, nationwide. And their
governor is proposing essentially to dismantle that, which is an amazing
thing in that state and which got a lot of people out on Valentine`s Day,
on a Saturday, at minus 13 degree wind-chill, to not ice fish, but instead
to go protest what he wants to do.
But, you know what? Come on, let`s be realistic. Scott Walker is
running for president, and so, this is the kind of thing he`s going to be
doing for the next year or so.
He is, in fact, increasingly seen as a top tier presidential candidate
on the Republican side. I think that is in part because conservatives
nationwide, you know, they may love the idea of destroying the University
of Wisconsin. I don`t know. I think it`s probably driven more by the fact
that a lot of other would be top tier candidates who are supposed to be
competing with Scott Walker right now, those other would-be top tier
candidates are having trouble right out of the gate, even the very high
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, for example, he`s had a bad few
weeks, including a bad overseas trip to London. That got him a lot of bad
Former supporters in New Jersey, including the campaign manager from
the first time he ran for governor seemed to be siding more with Jeb Bush
than with him. Chris Christie`s poll numbers at home in New Jersey have
Conservative media buzz used to have Chris Christie at the top of the
list of connected Republicans best positioned to win the Republican
presidential nomination. Not right now. Now, he is basically considered
to be more in the marching order of guys like Mike Huckabee or Rand Paul.
Rand Paul is now past the phase where he got to enjoy being the object
of beltway media fascination. He is now in the part where he is trying to
present himself as a credible candidate for president. It`s not going
great, both because he doesn`t seem to have any major donor support, which
is important at this stage, but also because he keeps making a lot of
unforced errors. Like, for example, Senator Paul saying multiple times at
a recent appearance that he has a degree in biology.
Rand Paul does not have a degree in biology. Amazing thing about this
is that nobody said to him at this event, Senator Paul, do you have a
degree in biology? He just volunteered that. I have a degree in biology -
- and it`s not true.
And now, of course, he is angry that anyone is pointing out what is
not true. No one would have brought it up had he not brought it up, had he
not said it. Rand Paul, what are you doing? Why would you volunteer that
if that is not true about yourself? You were under no pressure to prove
your biology bona fides.
So, a lot of the people who look like they might be top tier
candidates are sort of fizzling already. And so, the man to beat might
very well be Scott Walker. It`s kind of hard to believe, but honestly, the
conservative media loves him right now. One of the things they love him
for is his proposal to absolutely gut the flagship university system that
his state is known for.
But beyond Scott Walker, you know, if you do look the stuff that makes
it possible to put together a winning bid for nomination, if you look at
connections, and big donor money, and early commitments, and who`s got the
real establishment on their side, the closest thing the Republican Party
has this year to an inevitable candidate, to an inevitable nominee is, of
course, Jeb Bush.
And now, faced with the age old dilemma, pets or meat, which is it,
pets or meat? We now know, thanks to a brand new scoop of "The New York
Times", that Jeb Bush, the closest thing that the Republican party has to a
candidate this year, he is a meat man.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. I saw the sign down on the street. It said
you are selling rabbits and bunnies here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For sale.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want pets or meat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pets or meat? You mean I can buy the bunnies to
have as a pet or I can buy them for --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Meat. They are already dressed and cleaned.
I butcher the babies when they reach four or five months old.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s good.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You see, if you butcher the older ones like
these guys, they are stewers, they are not fryers. And a lot of people
like fryers better than they do the stewers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that makes sense.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, I keep my own personal stock and when my
babies get four or five months old and I have 15, 20 babies, you have you
have to get rid of them sway. If you don`t sell them as pets, you have to
get rid of them as meat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Pets or meat. That is obviously Michael Moore being amazing.
But we now know, thanks to a brand new scoop in today`s "New York
Times" that on the age-old question of pets or meat -- when it comes to
rabbit, Jeb Bush is a meat man. We know that because of this letter on
bright yellow paper that was given to Jeb Bush in 1985 by the vice
president of the marketing for the American Commercial Rabbit Association.
Quote, "I`m developing a business plan for the market of domestic
rabbit meat. I would value your assistance in establishing contact with
the potential USDA liaison."
This person apparently met Jeb Bush at a Bush family political fund-
raiser in 1985, hand delivered this letter to him saying help me out with
my rabbit meat plan. I need some contacts in the federal government in
And thanks to "The New York Times" digging that letter out of the
George H.W. Bush archives we know that Jeb Bush hooked the rabbit meat lady
Look at what he said, "Dear senior adviser to the vice president of
the United States" who happens to be my dad, "Tom, can you get me a name at
USDA to help out the rabbit meat lady?" Sends the note.
And, you know, when the son of the vice president of the United States
wants a rabbit meat contact in the federal government -- well, that`s what
he gets. Within less than a week, look, this is the letter from the office
of the vice president on office of the vice president stationary seeking a
federal referral for the rabbit meat lady. Good thing she went to that
Look, here`s a phone log from the follow-up conversation with Jeb
Bush. See the hand-written notation on the right. The notation there
says, "Rabbit meat, USDA", that was the subject of the conversation.
And then, here`s the response. A representative from the federal
government calling the rabbit meat lady directly to make sure she`s got all
the contacts she need and she knows Jeb Bush took care of her after she hit
him up at a fund-raiser.
So, "The New York Times" did a deep dive not just to the rabbit meat
thing but other evidence there is of how Jeb Bush over the course of his
lifetime and political career made good news of his family connections. It
is remarkable the things large and small that you can get done when you are
the grandson of a senator, the son of the vice president, the son of a
president, the brother of another president.
It is one thing to have an amorphous idea of what the privilege and
power must mean for a person, it`s another thing to see the granular "thank
you" notes details of it.
And to see that he really, thanks to his family connections, is used
to having a ton of pull. Thanks to his brother and his grandfather and his
dad and all the other Bushes and all their political power and contacts.
One of the weirder political losses of the George H.W. Bush
administration, so Jeb`s dad`s presidential administration, one of the
weirder political knocks they took while he was president was the U.S.
Senate deciding not once but twice to reject someone who Bush supported to
be the U.S. attorney in the state of Florida.
The nominee for this U.S. attorney is a guy when he was he acting U.S.
attorney general -- excuse me, when he was the acting U.S. attorney, he got
admonished by the justice department for the way he ran his office. The
attorney general of the United States also had to raid in to this guy`s
office and take him personally off a high-profile prosecution because he
was not seen as being experienced enough or temperamentally suited enough
to handle a high-profile prosecution. So, the attorney general of the
United States had to step in and take him off of it.
The FBI background check of this guy recounted a whole bunch of
previous allegations of domestic violence against him. For all of those
reasons and others besides, the Senate rejected this nomination for this
guy to be U.S. attorney, rejected it once. But still, for some reason,
poppy bush kept pushing for this guy and nominated him again. The Senate
did him the great insult of rejecting his nominee for the second straight
What was behind the commitment to this guy? We know behind the scenes
that Jeb Bush in Florida had been advocating for that guy`s nomination,
forcibly. Advocating to his father when he was vice president and
president, including pushy letters to top staffers about the nomination.
Jeb Bush also went to far when his father was president, also went to
far at one point to make a recommendation to his father as to who should
get the next open seat on the Supreme Court of the United States. He
writes a letter to his dad, encloses the guy`s resume and says, quote,
"Many people know him in Miami", in case that`s an important qualification
for the Supreme Court but, you know, Jeb Bush is writing where this
recommendation as the president`s son, writing to his dad`s top advisers
about who ought to be on the Supreme Court. Quote, "Should the opportunity
arise, I hope you would give consideration to Peter T. Fay promotion to the
U.S. Supreme Court."
Peter T. Fay did not get nominated by Poppy Bush to the Supreme Court
despite his son`s advocacy. To the contrary, Poppy Bush ended up picking
David Souter and Clarence Thomas as his nominees to the Supreme Court. He
got to two.
Since then, every president`s got two. President Clinton chose Ruth
Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer for the court. George W. Bush chose John
Roberts, the current chief justice, and also, Samuel Alito. President
Obama so far has chosen Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Supreme Court nominations are among the most durable and important
things that a president does ever. And not every iteration of the Supreme
Court hears Brown versus Board of Education, or Marbury versus Madison, or
Bush v. Gore, for that matter, or Roe versus Wade.
I mean, not every iteration of the court hears cases that become
household names and that change the world drastically and forever. But the
Supreme Court of the United States has breathtaking power on myriad issues.
Nothing else in government is like it.
Even just right now, we`re awaiting oral arguments on cases that may
eliminate the whole of Obamacare in one fell swoop, millions of people
losing their health insurance all at once. They could do that. They`re
going to hear those oral arguments, they will rule in the next few months.
We`re also awaiting another case that could legalize same-sex marriage
nationwide or not. We`re waiting another case that could ban the way that
states kill their prisoners now by lethal injection. That`s all just in
the next few months.
I mean, the Supreme Court is always important and the president`s
choices around who they would put on the Supreme Court are among the most
important criteria we have when it comes to choosing a president. Now, for
example, we with know that Jeb Bush would have liked the guy named Peter T.
Fay for the Supreme Court. OK.
But our Supreme Court right now has on its plate an unusually large
number of really, really consequential cases, all of which are going to get
heard in the next few weeks and decided in the next few months. And
because of that, the opportunity to hear from one of the justices of the
Supreme Court, the opportunity to talk to one of the justices about that
work and how they are approaching it, and how they feel about politics
right now, an opportunity to do that, that`s a big deal and a very rare
And so, without further adieu, I cheer by declare you should stay
where you are for just a second, because Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court
justice, is the interview right here, next.
MADDOW: OK. Just ahead, our exclusive interview with Supreme Court
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the 81-year-old justice on her health, her
legacy, on women`s rights, on abortion rights on President Obama and her
relationship with him and Ruth Bader Ginsburg on tattoos. It turns out she
has strong opinions on tattoos.
Our interview with Justice Ginsburg is next. Not to be missed.
MADDOW: April 2009, President Obama had just been in office for a
little more than three months. We`re just starting to get his feet wet as
a brand new president, when all of a sudden it became red alert time inside
the White House. News leaked to NPR reporter Nine Totenberg that Supreme
Court Justice David Souter was about to retire. David Souter at the time
was only 69 years old, which is still quite young for a Supreme Court
But NPR got this scoop that he was leaving the court and Barack Obama,
just three months into being President Barack Obama, he is faced with one
of those "this is not a drill" moments. Right? Think about that for a
Your president, you have only been president three months but you
alone get to nominate the next member of the United States Supreme Court,
who will then serve for life.
A few weeks after that, brand new President Barack Obama announced his
choice would be Sonia Sotomayor, a federal judge from New York City.
Here`s how Sonia Sotomayor described getting that call. She said
this, quote, "I had my cell phone in my right hand and I had my left hand
over my chest trying to calm my beating heart literally. The president got
on the phone and said to me, `Judge, I would like to announce you as my
selection to be the next associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.` I
caught my breath, started to cry and said, `Thank you, Mr. President.`"
Sonia Sotomayor was President Obama`s first Supreme Court appointment
but not his last. About a year later, when Supreme Court Justice John Paul
Stevens announced his retirement, President Obama nominated former
Solicitor General Elena Kagan for the Steven seat on Supreme Court.
Some presidents don`t even get one Supreme Court appointment during
their time in office. President Obama has so far had two.
And one big, sometimes awkward question that has lingered over the
final two years of his presidency is whether he`s going to get another pick
as well. The oldest serving member of the Supreme Court right now is Ruth
Bader Ginsburg. She is 81 years old. She was appointed by Bill Clinton in
1993 after a career that included founding the Women`s Rights Project at
the ACLU. She was the second woman ever to serve on the Supreme Court
after Sandra Day O`Connor.
And all the speculation all of the time now when it comes to Ruth
Bader Ginsburg is how much longer does she intend to serve?
And when you look at Ruth Bader Ginsburg in that way, right, as 81
years old, somebody who survived a number of health scares, including more
than one bout with cancer, it seems like a logical question to ask. But
then you hear her speak and then you look at her opinions on the latest
cases decided by the court, and you realize that, yes, 81 years of age, but
you know what? Ruth Bader Ginsburg is not only still on top of her game,
she might be at the height of her game right now.
My MSNBC colleague Irin Carmon sat down with Ruth Bader Ginsburg at
the Supreme Court, which was itself a feat. Supreme Court justices do not
send for many interviews.
And what Irin got from her was a wide-ranging fascinating interview
that included that magic question, how much longer do you plan to keep
doing this? Watch.
IRIN CARMON, MSNBC NATIONAL REPORTER: I know that you have no
intention of retiring -- correct me if I am wrong -- anytime soon. But I`m
wondering what you want your successor to look like.
RUTH BADER GINSBURG, U.S. SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: My successor will be
the choice of whatever president is sitting at that time. I`m concerned
about doing the job full steam. And I said many times, once I sense that I
am slipping, I will step down, because this is a very intense job. It is
by far the best and hardest job I have ever had. And it takes a lot of
energy and staying power to do it right. I will step down when I feel I
can no longer do the job full steam.
CARMON: A lot of people worry about your health. They want to know,
are you cancer-free? How is your health?
GINSBURG: I had my first cancer bout in 1999. That was colorectal
And it was a challenge. It was massive surgery, chemotherapy,
radiation, the whole works. Then I was fine for 10 years, and then in
2009, tiny tumor in my pancreas was detected, very early. And I had
surgery for that. So, that`s 2009, and now it is 2015.
The most recent episode occurred when I was with my personal trainer.
And suddenly, my chest felt so constricted. And I broke out in a sweat. I
was overwhelmingly nauseous. So I said, "Well, I stayed up all night last
night writing an opinion. So I`m just exhausted. I`ll rest for awhile."
I was very stubborn.
It was a blocked right coronary artery. As soon as they put this
stent in, I was awake during the procedure, groggy, but still awake. As
soon as the stent was in place, I was fine. No more constriction in my
CARMON: Other than that, your health --
GINSBURG: Other than that --
CARMON: -- is OK?
GINSBURG: -- it`s fine.
CARMON: When you were fighting for women`s rights in the `70s, what
did you think 2015 would look like? What`s the unfinished business that we
have, when it comes to gender equality?
GINSBURG: Our goal in the `70s was to end the closed door era. There
were so many things that were off limits to women, policing, firefighting,
mining, piloting planes. All those barriers are gone.
And the stereotypical view of people of a world divided between home
and child caring women and men as breadwinners, men representing the family
outside the home, those stereotypes are gone. So we speak of parent --
rather than mother and wage earner rather than male breadwinner.
That job was an important first step. What`s left, what`s still with
us and harder to deal with is what I call unconscious bias.
CARMON: You`ve been a champion of reproductive freedom. How does it
feel when you look across the country and you see states passing
restrictions that make it inaccessible if not technically illegal?
GINSBURG: Inaccessible to poor women. It`s not true that it`s
inaccessible to women of means. And that`s -- that`s the crying shame. We
will never see a day when women of means are not able to get a safe
abortion in this country. There are states -- take the worst case.
Suppose Roe v. Wade is overruled. There will still be a number of states
that will not go back to old ways.
CARMON: Well, now there`s lots of legislative activity, right? And
it`s mostly in the direction of shutting down clinics, creating new
GINSBURG: Yes. But --
CARMON: -- in front of women.
GINSBURG: Who does that -- who does that hurt? It hurts women who
lack the means to go someplace else. The situation with abortion right now
-- all the restrictions, they operate against the woman who doesn`t have
freedom to move, to go where she is able to get safely what she wants.
CARMON: You mentioned if Roe v. Wade is overturned, how close are we
GINSBURG: This court is highly precedent bound. It could happen but
I think it`s not a likely scenario. The court has an opportunity to do
that some years ago.
And they said in an opinion known as Casey that they would not depart
from the precedent they had set. They did more than that. They gave a
reason, a rationale that was absent in Roe v. Wade itself. Roe v. Wade was
as much about a doctor`s right to practice his profession as he sees fit.
And the image was the doctor and a little woman standing together. We
never saw the woman alone.
The Casey decision recognized that this is not as much about a
doctor`s right to practice his profession, but about a woman`s right to
control her life destiny.
I don`t want to make any predictions, but precedent is important in
MADDOW: We will have more of this exclusive interview with Justice
Ginsburg next. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: We`re back now with more from our sit-down interview with
Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg does not do many interviews but she
spoke with MSNBC`s own Erin Carmon about a wide range of issues. She spoke
at length about women`s rights and abortion rights, some of which you just
heard. She also had a stinging critique of the dysfunction of our current
Congress, which you will hear in just a moment.
But she also entertained a little lightning round. Watch this.
CARMON: I wonder, Justice, if you could give me just one word that
comes to mind when I say a few things. Just a fun little game.
GINSBURG: Well, let`s say, symphatie. That`s a French word. It
means more than sympathetic. It means someone who cares about other
CARMON: Citizens United.
CARMON: Chief Justice Roberts.
GINSBURG: Most able chief.
CARMON: Hobby Lobby.
GINSBURG: Wrong again.
CARMON: You have been dismayed by the court`s ruling on women`s
GINSBURG: Not all together. Think of the case of the girl who was
strip searched. She was in the 8th grade. If you saw the difference
between the oral argument and what some of my colleagues thought, the boys
in the gym, Oh, the boys in the gym, they-- they undress and nobody thinks
anything of it."
CARMON: That was a case in which you changed their minds is what it
So, as we live, we can learn. It`s important to listen. So I`m very
glad that case came out as it did.
CARMON: I`m looking at something you wrote in 2003. You said the
stain of generations of racial oppression is still visible in our society.
I`m wondering how you see the current state of race relations in our
GINSBURG: People who think you can wave a magic wand and the legacy
of the past will be over are blind. Think of neighborhood living patterns.
We still have many neighborhoods that are still racially identified. We
still have many schools -- even though the days of state-enforced
segregation are gone, segregation because of geographical boundaries
CARMON: The court`s taken a look at some major civil rights laws in
the past. You`ve dissented on the Voting Rights case. There`s been
several Title 7 cases, that seem to be chipping away a lot of the
legislation that was passed during the civil rights era. Should we be
worried that all of those great achievements of the Civil Rights Movement
are being rolled back?
GINSBURG: The Congress in 1991 took a look at some of this court`s
restrictive interpretations of Title 7. And they passed a bill that
changed -- changed all of those. At the moment, our Congress is not
functioning very well.
GINSBURG: I mean, for example, the Voting Rights Act was renewed by
overwhelming majorities on both sides of the aisle. But the current
Congress is -- not equipped really to do anything.
Someday, we will go back to having the kind of legislature that we
should, where members, whatever party they belong to, want to make the
thing work and cooperate with each other -- with each other to see that
that will happen. I mean, it was that way in 1992 when I was -- when I was
nominated for this good job. There were only three negative votes. And my
hope and expectation is that we will get back to that kind of bipartisan
CARMON: And when the time comes, what would you like to be remembered
GINSBURG: Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to
the very best of her ability and to help repair tears in her society, to do
something as my colleague David Souter would say outside of myself. I have
much more satisfaction for the things I have done for which I was not paid.
MADDOW: Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to
the very best of her ability and to help repair tears in her society.
Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I want to show you one more
exchange from this interview. As you may be aware, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has
achieved sort of a cult following online. There`s a Tumblr dedicated to
her, complete with Notorious R.B.G. t-shirts and all sorts of Notorious
R.B.G. and R.B.G.-themed Internet memes. They`re even, Ruth Bader
Ginsburg, I kid you not, tattoos that have popped up here and there across
Erin Carmon, God bless her, asked Ruth Bader Ginsburg about people
getting Ruth Bader Ginsburg tattoos. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARMON: I wanted to -- I wondered -- have you --
GINSBURG: I saw that. And I thought it was -- I thought it was a
joke. I thought it was something you pasted onto your arm. But I -- I`m a
little distressed that people are really doing that.
CARMON: Distressed why?
GINSBURG: Because why would you make something that can`t be removed
I mean, it`s one thing to make holes, and -- that you can use or not.
My granddaughter for awhile was wearing a nose ring. Now, she`s not
anymore. But a tattoo you can`t remove.
CARMON: Well, I think it`s because they admire you, that`s why. This
is the second tattoo I`m aware of. The other one has a picture of you.
And it says, "Respect the bench."
GINSBURG: Well, that`s a nice sentiment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: My face, that`s very distressing. Respect the bench -- yes,
that`s a nice sentiment. Amazing.
Huge thanks and huge, huge congratulations to Erin Carmon for getting
this great interview and for letting us debut it here. Erin is going to be
on "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL" in the next hour with more on
the interview and we are going to be posting the whole unedited thing, the
complete enchilada online. Great get by Erin. Great interview.
All right. We still got a lot of other news tonight, including this -
- which is the kind of thing that`s never good news. But at least today,
it did happen in the middle of a giant snowstorm. That made it better in
terms of the huge fire ball but worst in terms of first responders getting
there. That`s ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Today was a big day for snow and ice all around huge swaths
of the country. But in one corner of America, this is a day for snow, and
ice and fire. Flames reaching hundreds of feet in to the air, a great
roiling column of fire.
Reporters calling in to this area today trying to find eyewitnesses to
tell them what was going on. Reporters said they could hear the flames
roaring, even over the phone while people tried to describe what it was
that they were seeing. We`re going to be talking to somebody who was
there, talking with an eyewitness right after this. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, early this afternoon, about 1:30 local time, a 109-car
freight train carrying Bakken crude oil from North Dakota went off the
rails near Mount Carbon, West Virginia. It`s about 30 miles outside West
Virginia`s capital city of Charleston.
Following the derailment, there were multiple large explosions. We
have reports one home was destroyed. Other homes may have also caught
fire. The railroad, CSX, says one person suffered an inhalation injury
from the fire. They have evacuated hundreds of people so far, anybody
within a half mile of the derailment and subsequent explosion.
We also have reports that at least one train car end up in the Kanawha
River, and that some of the crude oil carried by the train has gone in to
the river. These local towns around here drink from that river. And
tonight, they have shut down their water intakes in an effort not to send
the crude oil and toxins from the spill in to people`s showers and kitchen
Now, where this crash happened today, it isn`t in a middle of a big
city or anything, but it`s also not also in the middle of nowhere. There
were a lot of people who witnessed what happened, a lot of people who took
photos and video of the aftermath and flames, people who talked to
reporters about what they saw.
Now, I want you to watch this from a local news crew from WSAZ, which
is the NBC affiliate there. Their crew is interviewing man about what he
saw when the derailment happened, and it`s burning in the background. But
then watch what happens as they talk to him. This is incredible.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re standing down on the river bank when we saw
the train or a car explode and it shot up a mushroom cloud about as high as
those, like that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you get a picture of that? Man, that`s high.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Incredible footage from WSAZ in West Virginia.
"Reuters" is reporting tonight that nine or ten of the cars on the
train exploded at intervals of a half an hour. Again, this is not in the
middle of nowhere, right? People live quite near the railroad tracks and
those explosions today.
One local resident named Ruthie Willis Collins took this video from
the vantage point of the Catholic Church in Boomer, West Virginia. I mean,
you can see people live along these tracks where this happened.
A reporter for "The Charleston Daily Mail" today pointed out that this
new crash and this explosion today happened on the same train line as the
crash of another train last year over the state line in Virginia. Same
line, same route, same tracks, same kind of trains.
That train that blew up in Lynchburg, Virginia, last year was also
carrying Bakken crude oil from North Dakota, along the same line heading
for the same storage facility that was April last year when that oil train
derailed and exploded and sent those rail cars and 20,000 gallons of crude
into that river in Virginia. Now, it`s West Virginia. We have seen a long
lengthening strain of exploding oil trains. I mean, just in recent
There`s the runaway oil train that crashed and exploded and killed 47
people in Lac-Megantic in Canada in 2013. Few months later, most of
Castleton, North Dakota, fled the explosion when oil train crashed and
exploded there. There was that crash in Lynchburg, Virginia last year.
There was that crash today along the same line in West Virginia.
The federal government has been considering new standards for older
tanker cars to try to make them safer. But even if those new standards get
approved, the rollout is expected to take 20 years.
Meanwhile, in places like West Virginia, reporters have been asking
for information about the oil trains that have been moving through their
communities. The state so far has refused to let reporters look at that
information, but you know what? Every once in a while, it is hard to keep
the information under wraps because every once in a while, an oil train
goes off like a giant bomb in the middle of places where people live and
that is something that everybody can see.
Joining us is Randy Fitzwater. He`s a resident of Boomer, West
Virginia. He lives very close to where the trains went off the tracks
today. This is the view from his house today in Boomer.
Mr. Fitzwater, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate you
being with us.
RANDY FITZWATER, BOOMER, WEST VIRGINIA (via telephone): Thank you for
MADDOW: So, what did you hear and see earlier when this train
FITZWATER: Well, my wife and I were sitting in the living room
talking. We heard a sound that sounded like sounded like commercial jet
airliner engine over our house. And that lasted a few seconds and then we
heard giant explosion.
And I got up and went to the window and could see the fire ball across
the river. You are looking at my front yard in that video. And I thought
it was an airliner that crashed. So, I told my wife to call 911.
She tried to call 911 but got a busy signal on the first call and
called back and said, my husband thinks there`s an airline crash. The 911
attendant said, well, no, it is a train derailment. We have had some other
MADDOW: Mr. Fitzwater, how close is your house to where this actually
FITZWATER: Just right across the Kanawha River. We`re on one side
and the fire is directly across from us. Probably, maybe a quarter mile.
MADDOW: OK. Do you see these types of oil trains go through that
area and go down that line frequently?
FITZWATER: Frequently, yes. Primarily coal and oil on those tracks
and there are some chemical cars that travel it, as well.
MADDOW: Mr. Fitzwater were you evacuated at all or have you been
given advice on what you should do because you are so close to where this
FITZWATER: Well, there was an evacuation put forth for Boomer and my
wife is disabled and hard for us to get out and we are in the middle of one
of the biggest snowfalls we have had in quite sometime. I just made the
decision I didn`t think it was necessary to leave. We stayed here at the
house. Luckily, we`re OK.
MADDOW: Randy Fitzwater in Boomer, West Virginia -- well, good luck
to you and your wife. Ands thanks for helping us understand what this was
like today. I appreciate it, sir.
FITZWATER: Thank you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
I want to bring in now Marcus Constantino. He`s a multimedia reporter
for "The Charleston Daily Mail", which is a great paper. He`s at the scene
of the derailment now and has been speaking to witnesses.
Mr. Constantino, thanks for joining us.
MARCUS CONSTANTINO, CHARLESTON DAILY MAIL (via telephone): Yes, thank
Here at the scene, I`m 500 feet away from the train. It`s still
burning into the night. You can see flames still shooting out from a
couple of the oil train cars across the river.
First responders, firefighters arrived on the scene about an hour ago.
The flames have been really too intense for them to do anything, you know,
up until recently, so they`re looking at the train right now, and there`s
still no indication on when this fire could be out or how much of that
crude oil has seeped into the Kanawha River.
MADDOW: Two questions that I have been looking for answers to tonight
that you may know but I haven`t been able to find. One, do they know how
many of the tanker cars have blown up or burned? And do they know what
caused the derailment?
CONSTANTINO: I`m not sure exactly how many exploded, burned up. Just
looking at the scene, it looks like maybe 10 to 12 tankers are just sitting
in a burning heap on the other side of the Kanawha River. And at press
time today, we had not yet heard from CSX about the cause of the accident.
I have heard that the engineer was injured, but he is doing fine.
MADDOW: Marcus Constantino, multimedia reporter for "The Charleston
Daily Mail -- thanks for being out there covering this in this difficult
weather and difficult circumstances tonight. Appreciate having you here,
sir. Thank you.
CONSTANTINO: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got much more ahead, including a needed
best new thing in the world. Please do stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUBTITLE: Today at the TRMS production meeting --
MADDOW: Rand Paul went to Baylor, dropped in Texas, went to Baylor,
didn`t graduate, but was admitted to Duke Med School anyway, because Duke
has a loophole where you can test in with appropriate college credits, even
if you didn`t graduate.
STEVEN BENNEN, MADDOWBLOG WRITER: Not anymore.
MADDOW: What`s that?
BENNEN: Not anymore. They dropped that, after Rand Paul graduated.
MADDOW: Did they say why they dropped it?
BENEN: I can look into it, but I don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, earlier tonight in the show, we played much of Irin
Carmon`s interview with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the
whole interview was great, and we`re posting the whole thing online. And
we are excited to have debut here tonight. I have to tell you, though,
there was one part of the interview that was so good that we had to save it
for best new thing in the world.
Started with a question from Erin about falling asleep, Asking Justice
Ginsburg about falling asleep during the State of the Union this year, and
her admission that a glass of wine that she had ahead of the speech might
have been the culprit for why she nodded off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARMON: I`ve got to ask you, by the way, everybody`s talking about
the State of the Union.
CARMON: They`re saying you said yesterday that you were not 100
GINSBURG: Oh, what I meant was that I head a glass of wine with
dinner, and that on top of having stayed up all night. I was writing
something. And --
CARMON: So, you`re a bit of a lightweight, as we call it?
GINSBURG: I said -- I thought to myself, "Don`t stay up all night."
But then my pen was hot. And so, I couldn`t -- I couldn`t stop what I was
doing. And then (INAUDIBLE) just drink sparkling water, no wine. But the
dinner was so good. And it needed to be complemented.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: What`s more important here, the main reason she fell asleep
was because she had been up all night writing the night before. She says,
my pen was hot. So, I can`t stop when the pen catches fire.
So, one, she was up all night burning up the pages. Two, she was
going to stick to sparkling water at her pre-State of the Union dinner, but
the food was so good at dinner, it deserved -- no, it demanded to be
complemented with some fine wine. And when a meal demands to be
complemented, Justice Ginsburg honors that demand.
And that was all before we found out who was to blame for not keeping
her awake during the president`s speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GINSBURG: That`s a tradition that we have dinner together before the
State of the Union. It`s usually Justice Kennedy who brings in a good
David Souter, when he was on the court, he sat next to me. We do
everything in seniority order. So -- and he was sensitive to my -- well,
he couldn`t -- he could sense when I was beginning -- my head was beginning
to lower. So, he would give me a pinch.
Now, my colleagues -- I think they`re more reluctant.
CARMON: Who was sitting next to you?
GINSBURG: I have Justice Breyer on one side, Justice Kennedy on the
other. And they gave me a little jab, but it wasn`t -- wasn`t enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, little known fact, David Souter, best known for being a
surprisingly moderate Supreme Court justice for nearly two decades. We now
also know that he was Justice Ginsburg`s official pincher. That he would
pinch her when she would start to fall asleep at speeches.
And learning that, come on, that`s the best new thing in the world.
May we all have official pinchers when we need them. Also, Justice
Kennedy, step up. Come on.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Good evening, Lawrence.
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