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PoliticsNation, Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Read the transcript from the Monday show

Date: February 23, 2015
Guest: Loretta Sanchez, Jim Arkedis, Joan Walsh, Eric Guster, Faith
Jenkins, Allison Samuels, Shaun Robinson, Alyona Minkovski

REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ed. And thanks to you for
tuning in.

Breaking news tonight, moments ago Senate Democrats pushed back against
Republicans` latest attempt to tie up security funding over the president`s
executive action on immigration. It`s the fourth time Senate Republicans
have tried to use Homeland Security Funding as a bargaining chip to stop
the president`s executive action. And while they keep playing politics,
with just four days away from a department shutdown, President Obama said
that would hurt our economy and possibly our safety.


week from now, more than 100,000 DHS employees, border patrol, court
inspectors, TSA agents, will show up to work without getting paid. Now,
they all work in your states. These are folks who if they don`t have a
paycheck are not going to be able to spend that money in your states. They
will have a direct impact on your economy and it will have a direct impact
on America`s national security because their hard work helps to keep us


SHARPTON: DHS keeps us safe, and we need its protection especially now.
On Saturday, the Somali terrorist group Al-Shabaab put out a video calling
for attacks on western malls including the mall of America in Minnesota.
Officials have stepped up security at the mall and said there are no
specific plots against it. But Al-Shabaab has -- was behind the attack
against a mall in Kenya in 2013 that killed more than 60 people. And
Homeland Security`s Secretary Jeh Johnson isn`t dismissing the threat.


to take that seriously. I would say that if anyone is planning to go to
the mall of America today, they`ve got to be particularly careful.


SHARPTON: The Department of Homeland Security needs to be completely
focused on issues like this. Not on whether Republicans will give it the
money to keep doing this work.

Joining me now are Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, Democrat of California,
who serves on the House Homeland Security Committee and Jim Arkedis, a
Truman Fellow and Former Pentagon Counterterrorism Analyst. Thank you both
for being here.



SHARPTON: Congresswoman, four days until the Department of Homeland
Security runs out of money. I mean, let me ask you, do you think your
Republican colleagues will really let it shut down?

SANCHEZ: Well, we didn`t think that a year and a half ago when they shut
down the government for, I believe it was 18 days. Their essential people
went to work and then what happened was that we ended up having to pay
those people who didn`t even go to work during that time. So what we
understand about shutdowns is it`s not efficient, it`s not effective. And
for the Republicans to be holding the Department of Homeland Security as
hostage when we really need them, threats are changing all the time,
Reverend. You know, we saw what happened in Paris, for example.


SANCHEZ: And our department has to change according to that. And when
these Republicans continue to do a CR or don`t fund what`s going on over
the fact that they don`t like immigrants, I mean, that is the most
ridiculous thing that I`ve seen in a long time.

SHARPTON: Jim, we`ve heard there`s no specific plot against the mall of

ARKEDIS: Correct.

SHARPTON: But what kind of monitoring are U.S. security agencies doing
there right now?

ARKEDIS: Well, everything comes through the National Counterterrorism
Center, which is based out in Tysons Corner, Virginia, all reporting from
the CIA, NSA, DOD and FBI ultimately goes through there. Then anything
that is deemed credible gets passed along to the Department of Homeland

And remember several years ago under the Bush administration when we had
those color-coded terrorism alerts? We don`t have those anymore, but DHS
does have a mechanism called NTAS, the National Terrorism Advisory System,
whereby they write a memo that says here`s the threat, here`s what`s going
on, here is whether it`s imminent, here`s the level of credibility. And
then they pass that information along to local law enforcement in Minnesota
who can take appropriate measures to ensure that proper personnel or
dedicated to defending against this issue.

SHARPTON: Congresswoman Sanchez, a CBS poll found 60 percent, 60 percent
of people think a DHS-Funding Agreement should be separate from immigration
policy. And even some Republicans don`t want to have this fight. Listen
to what Senator Lindsey Graham said this morning.


SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: For God sakes don`t shut down
the premiere homeland security defense line called the Department of
Homeland Security. If we do, as Republicans, we`ll get blamed.


SHARPTON: Will Republicans get blamed if this is shutdown, Congresswoman?

SANCHEZ: Absolutely. I mean, we need these employees. We need this front
line. There are challenges every day. There are attacks that could happen
that they`ve thwarted over and over. There are -- just knowing that we
have them on the front line makes terrorists think twice before they go and
do something. And if we believe that in four days they`re -- you know,
only essential, or we`ll send some of them home, then that`s and the
particular time when a terrorist might say, OK, now`s the time to attack.

I think it is very dangerous for the Republicans to be doing this, and I
hope that Americans understand just how dangerous -- they`re doing over a
philosophical issue.

SHARPTON: Let me pick-up on that. Well, let me pick-up on that with you,
Jim --


SHARPTON: -- because the mall of America is in Minnesota.


SHARPTON: Now, there`s been any number of instances of residents traveling
overseas to join extremists from Minnesota. From 2006 to 2011, 27 Somali-
Americans from Minnesota traveled to fight in Somalia.


SHARPTON: Since 2013, 12 people with ties to Minnesota traveled to Syria.
And just last week, a Minneapolis man was indicted on charges associated
with supporting ISIS. I mean, how big is the concern over lone wolf actors
in this, Jim?

ARKEDIS: Well, so here`s the thing. There is a large Somali Diaspora in
the twin cities area and there`s certainly as you just mentioned have been
reports of these individuals going to Somalia and training with them.

Now, the concern is that in a Paris-type situation where individuals travel
to Somalia, spend a few months or maybe a few years learning sort of the
tricks of the trade. Then they return back because they have American
passports and then they`re sort of left to their own devices and there`s no
-- there`s no connection where some from Al Shabaab calls them up and says,
OK, now it`s time to conduct the attack.

So the concern is that as they learn things in Somalia, they can go back to
Minnesota and sort of conduct their normal lives and use what they`ve
learned in order to execute an attack when they feel the time is right. So
when we see a video like this that obviously increases that concern.

The other side of that issue, and this is really important for people to
understand, is that there`s been a host of terrorist activity throughout
the world over the course of the last several months. So people are
nervous. A lot of these groups, ISIS, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,
elsewhere, are all of a sudden competing for recruits and money and

So there`s the concern that someone could return to Minnesota, but there`s
also the issue that this group is just trying to puff out its chest and
saying, hey, don`t forget about us, either. And at this point, I would,
while not being able to discount the idea that a Paris-type attack could
occur in Minnesota, I would lean more toward the latter of the sort of
publicity stunt angle on this.

SHARPTON: But we can`t depend on that, Congresswoman, can we? I see you
shaking your head.

SANCHEZ: You know the problem is that you have something called the Mall
of America. I mean, think about the headlines. It`s a perfect name for
somebody to go. So we need to be vigilant.

You know, the most important thing for Americans to understand is we are in
a new age and we have been for quite a while now, and we need to be
vigilant. We`re the best eyes and ears that we have, is each of the
individuals as we go about our daily business. And that`s the way that we
actually, you know, when there`s something funny that`s going on and we
report it, it turns out that most the time, you know, it was something that
could have been very serious. So --

SHARPTON: But Congresswoman, while we`re being vigilant, we also don`t
need to try to blanket and vilify a whole community.

SANCHEZ: No, of course not.

SHARPTON: Secretary of Homeland Security Johnson talked about that this
weekend. Listen to this.


JOHNSON: We have to deal with it in a new and different way that involves
a whole of government approach and involves working with state and local
law enforcement, working with the community, working with community leaders
to hopefully persuade people who might be inclined in this direction to
turn away from violence.


SHARPTON: Congresswoman, you are on the committee of homeland security.
What kind of work on the ground needs to be done in these communities?

SANCHEZ: Well, I will tell you, for example, out here in Orange County,
California, we probably have the second largest Arab/Muslim community in
the nation, if not the second, at least the third. And we work very
diligently within the community. I mean, Mosque leaders are constantly
talking to young people who attend telling them that, you know -- and it`s
true, Islam is not about this extreme terrorism going on. We -- getting
them involved, getting young people, getting people, you know, these lone
sorts of people, these people sort of out of touch.

Getting them involved in community, getting them -- you know, my father
used to say, or the old adage is, idle hands are the devil`s workshop. So
making sure that they are involved. And more importantly, making sure that
communities who might have a different religion or have a different look
that they -- that they are involved and part of the overall community
fabric so that there`s understanding between groups.

That is a very important thing that we work on every single day out here in
Orange County, California.

SHARPTON: Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and Jim Arkedis, thank you both
for your time tonight.

ARKEDIS: Thanks, Reverend.

SANCHEZ: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Coming up, a jaw-dropping moment in the Aaron Hernandez murder
trial. What his housekeeper found beneath his mattress before the killing.

Also the GOP`s Rudy Giuliani problem, you got to hear what one of his top
defenders on the right is saying about the controversy today.

An activism at the Oscars, Hollywood`s biggest stage became a platform for
change. What does it mean for the future of social justice?


JOHN LEGEND, AMERICAN SINGER AND ACTOR: We say that Selma is now because
the struggle for justice is right now.

We know that right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real.



SHARPTON: Got a question for the president? Use the #Obamatownhall to
submit your questions for the big event this Wednesday.

My colleague, Jose Diaz Balart is moderating a Town Hall with President
Obama, answering questions directly from the audience and social media.
That`s Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC and Telemundo.

You know I have a lot of questions for Rudy Giuliani. He`s digging a
deeper hole. Maybe he just needs a hug. That`s next.


SHARPTON: We`re back with the GOP`s sorry attempt to explain Rudy
Giuliani`s claim that the president doesn`t love America. Today, Giuliani,
himself, wrote, quote, "My blunt language suggesting that the president
doesn`t love America notwithstanding I didn`t intend to question President
Obama`s motives or the content of his heart." But on the same day he wrote
that, he also said this.


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: I`ve said it may be 30 times
before, but somehow this time it hit a nerve, maybe because the president
is on such defense about his unwillingness to face Islamic extremist
terrorism. And to this man has a different view of America than most
American presidents had.

I think he just looks at us differently. He doesn`t have the same emotion
about this country and the same understanding of it.


SHARPTON: Rather than backing down, Giuliani is leaping even further into
the deep end. And take GOP Governor Bobby with the Jindal, who today
finally said the president does love America, but in the next breath, he
said the president doesn`t deserve to be president.


GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: The president loves America. He loves
our country. There`s no doubt about that. I think that the president has
really disqualified himself to be our commander in chief because he will
not -- not only identify this threat but take the steps that are necessary
to defeat this threat.


SHARPTON: President Obama has disqualified himself as commander in-chief,
really? And now GOP Governor Scott Walker is doing it, too backing off his
statement that he doesn`t know if President Obama is Christian. While
fund-raising off the controversy, the truth is Republicans are still
beholden to the far right fringe, and they`re still not playing it

Joining me now are Dana Milbank and Joan Walsh. Thank you both for being



SHARPTON: Dana, this weekend the New York papers quoted me when I said
Rudy Giuliani needs a hug. Meaning he`s, you know, a faded guy, just
looking for some attention.


SHARPTON: But what`s the solution for all of these other Republicans?

MILBANK: Well, it`s awfully not good of you, Reverend to give him this
attention because he`s obviously crying out.

SHARPTON: Well, I want to keep giving him attention. I think -- I think,
it shows how they won`t confront something that should be easy for them.

MILBANK: That -- it`s very gracious of you.

You know, as I think we`ve discussed, the problem really isn`t Rudy
Giuliani, it`s how the rest of the party is reacting to it.

SHARPTON: Correct.

MILBANK: And, you know, particularly the people who would be president,
who would be the party`s nominee. Now, and Jindal, I think stepped in it
quite a bit there, but not as bad to the extent that Scott Walker has done
and actually now bringing up this old cockamamie thing about is the
president a Christian?

That`s speaking to really the most venomous parts of the Republican primary
electorate, and sort of giving a wink and nod to the more hateful elements
of the party. So, you know, it`s one thing to be Rudy Giuliani or
something of a has-been and is definitely in need of your affection, but an
entirely different thing for a guy who`s a serious contender for president
to be playing this game.

SHARPTON: Now, Joan, you know, I mentioned the Governor Scott Walker and
his campaign, and in line with what Dana`s saying, what is really relevant
to me is the top Republican candidates running in 2016, their reaction to
it. Giuliani I think is a has-been looking for a hug.

But I mentioned Scott Walker because his campaign team is fund-raising off
the controversy, sending out an email saying, quote, "He refuses to be
drawn into the sideshow of answering pointless questions about whether and
how much President Obama loves our country. Now is the time to stand up
against the publicity hounds and the journalistic pack and help Governor
Walker fight back."

I mean, does this reveal what`s really going on here, Joan? Republicans
believe their base response to this ugly rhetoric.

WALSH: Yes, I mean, I think if we look back at 2012, we`ve now got Rudy
Giuliani playing the Donald Trump role. He`s kind of the carnival barker,
he`s shamed himself. He doesn`t care. He`s saying -- he`s the id. He`s
saying what other people maybe won`t say in quite the same way. So then
you`ve got the Giuliani primary, Rev. We`re living through the Giuliani
primary where you do have people like Lindsey Graham, like Jeb Bush, like
Rand Paul, like Marco Rubio who have distanced themselves, who really don`t
want to go all the way there and maybe hope that the Republican party can
beat the Democrats without demonizing the president.

Then you`ve got Bobby Jindal, hugged Giuliani, then steps back, then says
an even nastier thing, and Scott Walker who some people are calling the
front-runner. I can`t quite see this, but he`s doing very well in polls.
Having this, what really is a strategy to say these are unimportant
questions and I shouldn`t have to answer them, and then to go to his email
list and say, give me money?


WALSH: Because I`m engaging with it. And I`m trashing the liberal media
to boot.

SHARPTON: And let`s not forget, Dana, it`s now routine to hear these
attacks from Republicans in Congress. Listen to GOP Congressman Tim
Huelskamp and what he said.


REP. TIM HUELSKAMP (R), KANSAS: Don`t forget this was not a man educated
in our American system. He learned all kinds of things wherever he was
educated. He spent times in Indonesia and their schools there and this is
exactly what they caught there, if not probably close to what he believes.


SHARPTON: I mean, last time I checked accidental colleague, Columbia
University and Harvard University were very much American educational


SHARPTON: But are we going to hear any of the GOP leadership in Congress
condemn remarks like that any time soon?

MILBANK: Remarks taking us right back to the Madrassa. I thought we have
dealt with that seven or eight years ago. So, we`re hearing precious
little of people pushing back against that. And that`s why the
presidential race really brings us into focus because you always have the
Tim Huelskamp and the others in the background on the fringes making this
noise. So for the Democrats it`s delightful, delicious, and de-lovely to
see the leaders of the Republican Party being forced to answer to this sort
of thing, and it is going to go on.

They either need to repudiate it, not every single gotcha statement, but
they need to repudiate that element of the party and risk their own
fortunes in the presidential race, or embrace it and essentially disqualify
them in a general election.

SHARPTON: You know, Joan, it took most of the 2016 GOP candidates two days
to respond to Giuliani`s comment, picking-up on your last statement. But
here`s where things stand now. I like your political nose on these issues.
Four have said it`s wrong to question whether President Obama loves
America. Two have withheld comment. And one, Bobby Jindal, first claimed
the gist of what Giuliani said is true, but then said the president loves
America. If this was a test for 2016 Republicans, how did they do?

WALSH: Well, I think what we see -- I`m very interested in what Scott
Walker is doing. Because I`m going to be honest, Rev. I have consistently
underestimated him. I thought he could be defeated. He`s come back. So
I`m going to give him that credit. I thought all this weekend, oh, this is
stupid; he`s not ready for primetime. Dana says he`s disqualified himself.
I hope he`s right.

However, I think he sees a place for himself in the establishment primary
going after the donors with being to Jeb Bush`s right. That he can be the
guy who marries the right wing -- I`m the right wing candidate but I`m also
the establishment candidate. That hasn`t happened. They haven`t been able
to put that together in one person. He thinks he can be that person. I
don`t know if it`s possible. That`s what he`s doing.

SHARPTON: Yes, Jeb Bush, we haven`t heard from him all weekend. Jeb,
where are you?

Dana Milbank and Joan Walsh.

MILBANK: He needs a hug, too.

SHARPTON: Thank you both for your time tonight.

MILBANK: Thanks, Rev.

WALSH: Thanks, Rev.

SHARPTON: Coming up, social awareness was the big winner last night.
Common and John Legend`s powerful performance of "Glory" brought tears to
many in the theater and across the country.

But first the Las Vegas murder suspect makes his first appearance in court
today in shackles. The "Justice Files" is next.


SHARPTON: When it comes to denying the human impact of global warming,
Republicans has sit down to a science.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If climate change is a problem, and do you believe it
is or not? Do you believe --?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not a scientist.

I don`t know the science behind climate change.

listen, I`m not going to -- I`m not qualified to debate the science over
climate change.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: What is your take on global warming? Climate

I`m not a scientist.


SHARPTON: I`m not a scientist. It`s their favorite line. And when they
do actually talk about scientists, they usually point to people like Dr.
Willie Soon. He`s the darling of the right wing climate denier caucus. He
says greenhouse gases just aren`t that bad for you.

Senator Inhofe has repeatedly cited his work over the years, the same
Senator Inhofe who once said this about climate change.


SEN. JIM INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: The fact that all this is happening is due
to manmade gases I really believe is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on
the American people.


SHARPTON: The greatest hoax ever perpetrated. And to back him up, he
pointed to people like Dr. Soon.


INHOFE: These are scientists that cannot be challenged.


SHARPTON: I`m not too sure about that, senator, because "The New York
Times" reports Dr. Soon has accepted $1.2 million in funding from the
fossil fuel industry which he hasn`t disclosed in most of his scientific

Interesting, a guy pushing back on climate change debate while getting paid
by oil and gas companies. Well, I`m not a scientist, but I can sure spot a
potential conflict of interest when I see one. So, nice try, but don`t
even try to deny this one, because we got you.


SHARPTON: I`m not too sure about that, Senator, because "The New York
Times" reports Dr. Sun has accepted $1.2 million in funding from the fossil
fuel industry which he hasn`t disclosed in most of his scientific papers.
Interesting. A guy pushing back on climate change debate while getting
paid by oil and gas companies. Well, I`m not a scientist, but I can sure
spot a potential conflict of interest when I see one. So, nice try, but
don`t even try to deny this one, because we gotcha.


It`s time now for the "Justice Files." Joining me tonight, criminal
defense Attorney Eric Guster and former prosecutor and host of "Judge
Faith" Faith Jenkins. Thank you both for being here.



SHARPTON: Now to a developing news story on that Las Vegas murder. The
man accused of killing a mother in a hail of gunfire stood shackled as he
faced a judge for the first time today. His lawyers saying today Erich
Nowsch was acting in self-defense. Nowsch faces murder, attempted murder,
and gun charges. Las Vegas police say he killed Tammy Meyers after she and
her armed son followed him. They`d been involved in a reported road rage
incident earlier that day with her. A new police report reveals how Nowsch
was acting after the arrest. It said "he told friends he fired shots" at
Meyers. One of those friends even says, "he seemed excited and happy"
about it. But when police asked Nowsch about the shooting he denied it
all. Faith, they`re claiming self-defense today. What do you think?

JENKINS: I still think that there are more questions than answer in this
case. But here`s what we do know. We do know that this defendant was in
his car. And when you`re looking at a self-defense claim, you`re looking
at I had to defend myself, I had to shoot, it was my life or theirs. So,
the real question is, did the son of this woman who was killed, did he fire
first? Because we know that he had a gun.


JENKINS: He fired at least four shots. Who fired the first shots? That`s
going to be a key question, but at the end of the day, this defendant drove
to this woman`s house. She was shot in her driveway. Why did he drive to
her house? Was it to pursue her? It`s hard to get a self-defense claim
when you pursue someone and then shoot 22 times.

SHARPTON: So he Eric was the one was pursuing. How does that shape, as
Faith raises the question, how does that deal with his self-defense claim?
How does that impact that?

GUSTER: It makes self-defense harder, but they pursued him first. The
lady went home, got her son with a gun, then went after him. And there`s
more to this story, Reverend Al. There is something else we just don`t
know yet, because there is some other type of relationship or something
else because when a person goes after someone like that, it`s not normal.
And then the son told his mom, call the police, and she did not. She
refused to call the police.

JENKINS: Well --

SHARPTON: Wait, I want to bring this in. The "Las Vegas Review Journal,"
this is important, I think, to get your, both of your responses to this.
They wrote that Tammy Meyers` son tried to convince her to call police
rather than going out to chase a car involved in a previous altercation,
according to an arrest report. Now, how will that one fact make a
difference if this goes to trial?

JENKINS: Well, obviously you don`t advise someone. If you`ve been in some
kind of road rage incident to get in their car and try to find and follow
the person. But that`s not a crime, right, that`s not against the law. If
you want to follow someone, maybe you want to get their driver`s license,
maybe you want to report it, even if you want to confront them, that`s not
necessarily a crime. Now, the fact that her son got a gun, did he show
that gun, did he brandish that gun, did he menace the defendant? Those are
questions that need answered.

SHARPTON: The fact he told her, let`s call the cops, don`t pursue it, does
that have bearing at all?

GUSTER: Well, it will have a small bearing, Reverend Al. This is why.
When the person says there`s danger, let`s call the police instead of
pursuing this person, then that goes to mitigation as far as what will
happen with the young man who`s been arrested?


GUSTER: Will they look at this and say this lady should not have gone and
chased him? And the son is essentially saying with that testimony, don`t
go chase him and she did anyway.

SHARPTON: All right. Let`s go to a major reversal in the Aaron Hernandez
murder trial before we run out of time. Text messages the judge initially
threw out of the case are now back in. Hernandez and two other men are
accused of killing semi-pro athlete Odin Lloyd in 2013. Right before Lloyd
died, he and his sister exchanged text messages. Lloyd wrote to her,
quote, "You see who I`m with?" And "NFL, just so you know." NFL was
apparently the nickname for Hernandez. The judge says the jury can hear
about the messages, but not find out what they say. Prosecutors say the
texts set up a timeline of the night and pinpoints locations. But the
defense says it`s worse to let the jury wonder what Lloyd wrote. What do
you think?

JENKINS: I think that --


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Speculate, Mr. Lloyd is saying help, you know, I`m being
kidnapped, I`m going to be killed. I mean, they can speculate something
which is totally unfairly prejudicial. We don`t have any ability really to
counter that.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: They can find that at 3:23 he was still alive, and after
that, he was to longer alive which would be consistent with other witness
testimony, so in terms of its relevance, I`d say it`s extremely relevant.


SHARPTON: Eric, will the text messages help the prosecution?

GUSTER: They will help the prosecution because when a jury has to start
imagining things, they -- it does -- their imaginations will literally run
wild because on the defense side, we want the jury to know information
instead of guessing and imagining and conjecturing things and that`s what
will happen in this case.

JENKINS: Well, the defense should concede and let the text messages in if
that`s what they`re concerned about. They fought to keep these text
messages out.

SHARPTON: The defense did.

JENKINS: Yes. So now the judge is saying, we will let the time and
location of the texts come in and the defense is saying --

SHARPTON: But not the content.

JENKINS: But not the content. So, if they`re so concerned, then let the
content in. We`re not going to get it both ways. The prosecutors, it`s
important for them to set up a timeline here. Those 58 minutes when Lloyd
leaves with Hernandez and when Hernandez comes back without him. Those
text messages will help establish that Lloyd was in the vicinity of where
and Hernandez was in the vicinity of where Lloyd was murdered.

GUSTER: Could the judge kept the text messages totally out.


GUSTER: So, the defense -- this is one of those things in trial that you
have to make that decision. They may let them because the jury is already
going to know that he sent texts.

SHARPTON: Eric Guster, Faith Jenkins, I`m going to have to leave it there.
Thank you for your time.

JENKINS: Thanks, Rev.

GUSTER: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Still ahead, social justice at the Oscars. Was last night a
turning point for how we think about celebrities and activism?

Also, did the academy snub the memory of Joan Rivers? A Special Oscars
edition of "Conversation Nation" is next.


SHARPTON: Time now for a Special Oscars edition of "Conversation Nation."

Joining me tonight, journalist and author Allison Samuels, "Access
Hollywood" Shaun Robinson, and "HuffPost Live" host Alyona Minkovski.
Hollywood`s brightest stars shined during the Oscars last night. And as
actors accepted their trophy, one theme stole the spotlight from all of
them. Activism. The speeches ranged from civil rights, to suicide
awareness, from immigration to equal pay for women. Patricia Arquette
kicked things off with a speech that made many women, including Meryl
Streep, proud.


gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought
for everybody else`s equal rights. It`s our time to have wage equality
once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of



SHARPTON: Then came the most powerful and emotional performance of the
night. John Legend and common singing the song "Glory" about racial
injustice. The images of the Selma to Montgomery march flashed on stage.
It brought everyone to their feet, and some in the audience to tears. Then
came the speech where legend reminded America that Selma is now.


JOHN LEGEND, SINGER: We know that right now, the struggle for freedom and
justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world.
There are more black men under correctional control today than were under
slavery in 1850. When people are marching with our song, we want to tell
you we are with you, we see you, we love you, and march on.


SHARPTON: Shaun, what do you think of these powerful statements?

night, and I got to tell you, the ceremony was a little bit long. However,
I think that the Oscars, it`s all about moments. And some of those moments
that you just showed, those were the ones that we will be remembering and
talking about I think really for years to come. Common and John Legend`s
speech was so touching and really included information that made a lot of
us go, wow, you know, I did not know that. And I know that a lot of people
say that the Oscars is not the place to make these so-called political
speeches, but I think it is exactly the place because otherwise it just
becomes, you know, award, joke, award, joke. And I really like the fact
that these actors stand up, they take a stand on an important issue and get
people really thinking about how they can be active in their own lives in
terms of a lot of these issues that we really need to care about.

SHARPTON: How did it play in the crowd there, Shaun?

ROBINSON: Well, it played very well. As you could say, it`s interesting
that you say that, because a lot of times what plays good in the crowd does
not actually play good on television, but from what I could see, that
people, you know, they were giving these standing ovations, when Patricia
Arquette talked about equal pay for women and you had Meryl Streep jumping
out of her chair and Jennifer Lopez right next to her, I mean, that`s
really powerful and it shows that it`s okay to take a stand and to talk
about some of these really important issues.

SHARPTON: Allison, you cover a lot of entertainment. How do you feel
about the using that big platform to deal with big issues?

they sort of had to. Some of the movies -- many of the movies this year
were about really powerful subjects like ALS and Alzheimer`s and I think it
would have been very hard for Julianne Moore or Eddie from "The Theory of
Everything" to get up and not sort of give some type of salute to those
people that they were actually portraying.


SAMUELS: So, I think it made a lot of sense for those people to sort of
get up there and actually bring attention to whatever cause that was their
passion last night.


ALYONA MINKOVSKI, HOST, "HUFFPOST LIVE": Yes, and I agree. If you have
that big of a stage, then why not use it? And I think that, you know,
often the Oscars as was evidenced this year by the film`s selection they
had and then nominees that they ended up with, they`ve been criticized a
lot for a lack of diversity, for not really taking the plunge when it comes
to dealing with deeper political issues. But at least we saw those who
were in attendance, those who were part of the ceremony bringing it up
themselves this year. But I do think that the fact that Laura Porters won
for "Citizen 4," the best documentary was a big move. They so rarely
choose political documentaries. And hearing someone talk about the
surveillance day of plotting government whistleblowers was something that,
I mean, I certainly applaud.

SHARPTON: Allison, wage equality, when Patricia Arquette brought it up,
big, big reaction as Shaun said, and a big reaction on social media.

SAMUELS: Right. I think it was an important issue, Patricia Arquette, you
know, people love her. I think she took her moment and I think the
industry has to do more for women, just like they have to do more for other
minorities. But I think women are really sort of standing up and saying,
hey, look, count us in. We need more directors, more representation in
that area, and behind the scenes where decisions are made. So I think it
was totally appropriate for her to talk about that last night.

SHARPTON: And we need to deal with more diversity in the academy and
Hollywood, period. I want to stay on that.

SAMUELS: Of course.

SHARPTON: But now to a snub that has many fans furious. The late Joan
Rivers wasn`t honored during the in memoriam portion of the ceremony.
Rivers appeared in several films and revolutionized the red carpet
interviewing stars and everyone connected to the film industry. She died
in September during throat surgery. The academy said, quote, "Joan Rivers
is among the many worthy artists and filmmakers we were unfortunately
unable to feature in the in memoriam segment. She is, however, included in
our in memoriam gallery on

Alyona, what is your reaction? How did she not make it in?

MINKOVSKI: I think that this is a perfect example of the snobbiness of
Hollywood, you know, you`re either in the club and you`re part of it, or
you`re not, and so for whatever reason, I think maybe because Joan Rivers
was just too groundbreaking, maybe because of how edgy she was and
everything that she said and did over the years they chose not to include
her here. But I think it was a big mistake, it backfiring and everyone

SHARPTON: Shaun, how does it play out there in Hollywood?

ROBINSON: Well, a lot of people were surprised. As she was just honored
at the last two awards shows. I believe she was honored at S.A.G. with
their in memoriam and also at the Golden Globes. And why she wasn`t
included in the Oscars, maybe there is some thought that, you know, they
just wanted to honor people who were definitely known in the movie industry
and we have to, you know, we have to admit that Joan Rivers was known
mostly for her standup and in television although she did appear in many
movies. So, you know, I take the academy at their word. They say that
there were so people that they could have honored. So, whether this was a
snub, I`m not ready to go there yet. But definitely a lot of her fans were
very upset about her not being included.

SHARPTON: Allison, would you go there? Quickly?

SAMUELS: Well, I just remember that they did the same thing to Farrah
Fawcett and she`d been in a number of movies as well but she was primarily
known as a television star and they didn`t acknowledge her the same way
that they sort of avoided Joan. So, I think this is just what they do. If
you`re not known for movies, they just don`t sort of recognize you in that

SHARPTON: All right. Everyone, stay with me. When we come back, Lady
Gaga stuns the country with her performance. And John Travolta was
trending on twitter. Was it creepy or was it all just fun? It`s all
ahead. Please stay with us.


SHARPTON: We`re back with our Oscars after party panel. Allison, Shaun,
and Alyona. Were you Gaga for Lady Gaga`s Oscar performance last night? I
mean, we saw a side of the Grammy-winning pop star we`ve never seen before
with her vocal tribute to "The Sound of Music."




Shaun, this surprised a lot of people on twitter. What did you make of her

ROBINSON: First of all, Rev, I loved it, and here`s the reason why I loved
her performance. When Lady Gaga first burst onto the scene, I mean, it was
all about the crazy outfits, arriving in an egg, the meat dress and all
this. She has a tremendous voice, and now we`re getting to hear that.
It`s not about all the pageantry around her. It is about just her pure
vocal ability. The songs that she`s doing with Tony Bennett, I mean, she
is -- she really is a force. And that`s why people are so surprised
because they didn`t realize that she had this type of vocal ability, but
she is a fantastic singer, and I am so glad to see that we are experiencing
that now.

SHARPTON: Well, Allison, were you surprised? What was your reaction?

SAMUELS: I was a bit surprised, but I loved it, and, you know, she just
got engaged. I think she`s trying to show all different, you know, aspects
of her personality now. And I think it`s the right time to do that.
People know the other side of her, but last night I think she introduced a
brand new world of sort of interest from fans who didn`t know she could
actually do that.

SHARPTON: Now, before we go, John Travolta had everyone talking and
tweeting. He was trending before the show when this photo went viral with
Scarlett Johansson on the red carpet. Many saying this kiss was awkward
and uncomfortable. And then a year after butchering her name, he poked
some fun at himself on stage with Idina Menzel. But his cheek grabbing
might have overshadowed it.


IDINA MENZEL, ACTRESS: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage
my very dear friend, Glom Gazingo.

JOHN TRAVOLTA, ACTOR: I deserve that. I deserve that. But you, you, my
darling, my beautiful, my wickedly talented Idina Menzel.

MENZEL: You got it.

TRAVOLTA: Is that right?


SHARPTON: Shaun, that uncomfortable for you, or are the people being too

ROBINSON: Well, I really, really like John Travolta. He is one of the
nicest guys that I have met in Hollywood. I could have done without the
cheek grabbing and the hand -- I could have done without that. But, you
know what, I knew that this was going to be a time when he was able to come
out and redeem himself because, Rev, how many times did you watch him
butchering Idina Menzel`s name? You know, probably a lot. So he wanted to

SHARPTON: Well, Alyona, did he redeem himself?

MINKOVSKI: No I certainly don`t think that he redeemed himself. At this
point, you have to wonder why they keep inviting him to the Oscars. It
made me uncomfortable just having re-watched and re-listen to that clip.
And you can see it in Idina Menzel`s face and then her body language as
well that she was uncomfortable up there. It`s unfortunate that any of us
had to witness it.

SHARPTON: Well, Allison, Shaun and Alyona, thank you for joining us
tonight on this special edition. And we all want to thank you, Shaun, for
you inviting us and our dates to join you at the Oscars last night. We`ll
be right back.

ROBINSON: Rev, I was looking for you. What was your tux?

SHARPTON: Uh-huh. Cut her mic.

MINKOVSKI: Thanks, Rev.


SHARPTON: John Legend`s powerful speech last night put a new focus on
fighting for justice and equality today. Over the years we`ve seen
celebrities use star power to make a point. The academy gave the
humanitarian award at the governor`s ball to Harry Belafonte, and it
received some airtime at the Oscars last night.


HARRY BELAFONTE, ACTOR: Artists are the radical voice of civilization.
Each and every one of you in this room with your gifts, your power, can
influence citizens everywhere in the world to see the better side of what
we are as a species. Thank you very much.


SHARPTON: We remember Muhammad Ali refusing to fight Vietnam saying his
religious beliefs and his conscience would not permit him to fight an
unjust war. And more recently, LeBron James made a powerful statement
without saying anything. Celebrities have long had the role of raising
consciousness in society and in our country and last night was one of those
moments to remember. I think all of us have gifts, and celebrities
certainly have gifts, but part of having a gift is how you use it to give
to more than yourself. As Reverend Joseph Lowery always said to me, that`s
the difference between just being famous and being great.

Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.


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