'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Friday, February 3rd, 2012
Guest host: David Shuster
watch whole playlist
#5 'Employment Rising', Daniel Gross
#5 'Employment Rising', Nia-Malika Henderson
#4 'Security In Exchange', Matt Taibbi
# Time Marches On!
#3 'Change Of Heart', Jess McIntosh
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
#2 'Big Pimpin''
#1 'Occupy XLVI', Mike Biskar
YouTube, Current.com (excerpt)
printable PDF transcript
On the show: David Shuster, Matt Taibbi, Nia-Malika Henderson, Jess McIntosh, Mike Biskar, Daniel Gross
DAVID SHUSTER: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
(Excerpt from video clip) BARACK OBAMA: The economy is growing stronger, the recovery is speeding up.
SHUSTER: Two hundred and forty-three thousand new jobs in January, as the Republicans bury their heads further in the sand.
(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN BOEHNER: While we welcome the positive news today, I think our point is very simple - we can do better.
(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: What this president has done over the last three years has made it harder and harder for businesses to be able to grow and invest in people and hire people?
SHUSTER: That would explain the 3.7 million jobs added in the past 23 months.
Wall Street waivers. How the SEC gives the biggest banks a free pass when facing tough sanctions. Matt Taibbi will explain.
(Excerpt from video clip) NANCY PELOSI: Women's health has a big victory this morning.
SHUSTER: The Susan G. Komen foundation reverses its decision on Planned Parenthood. But will the brand ever be the same?
And, moonlighting in Nevada. Ron Paul gets some unexpected support.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: He knows what women's wants and what women's need are, and when it comes to a man that's going to be in the office, you want a man that knows his way around a woman.
SHUSTER: That should help his caucus performance.
All that and more, now, on "Countdown."
SHUSTER: Good evening, this is Friday, February the 3rd, 278 days until the 2012 presidential election. I'm David Shuster, sitting in for Keith Olbermann.
Unemployment has fallen again, presenting the GOP with a dilemma. Our fifth story in the "Countdown" - Republicans seem to think they can sweep the November election with one big theme: they are the only ones who can turn the economy around.
Unfortunately for them, the numbers clearly indicate they are wrong.
According to the Labor Department, employers added 243,000 jobs last month, dropping the unemployment rate from 8.5 percent to 8.3. Beyond that good news, the overall trends seem positive too. January was the seventh straight month of job growth over one hundred thousand and the fifth straight month the unemployment has dropped, bringing up to the lowest rate in nearly three years.
It's good news for millions of Americans and for President Obama. who used the news to pressure Congress to pass extensions to the pay-roll-tax cut and unemployment insurance without delay.
(Excerpt from video clip) OBAMA: The economy is growing stronger. The recovery is speeding up and we've got to do everything in our power to keep it going... So, I want to send a clear message to Congress, do not slow down the recovery that we're on. Don't muck it up.
SHUSTER: But, Mr. President, as you know, mucking things up is what the congressional GOP does best, along with repeating their talking points, starting with Speaker of the House John Boehner.
(Excerpt from video clip) BOEHNER: While we welcome the positive - the news today, I think our point is very simple: we can do better.
SHUSTER: To no one's surprise, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor agreed.
(Excerpt from video clip) ERIC CANTOR: As my colleagues have laid out, we could do a lot better.
SHUSTER: And GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney chimed in, saying, "Unfortunately, these numbers cannot hide the fact that President Obama's policies have prevented a true economic recovery. We can do better."
It took former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to suggest the president might benefit from the rising job numbers.
(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: The truth is - if it gets better, and better and better between now and the election, he will get some credit. On the other hand, if this is a lull before it starts getting worse, his re-election will be in enormous trouble.
SHUSTER: Newt, I have to disagree with you. If employment gets better and better between now and the election, the one thing the GOP fears most is going to happen - President Obama will get a lot of credit.
And while the president will likely be in trouble if the trend reverses, Newt, you have plenty of problems of your own right now, starting with tomorrow's Nevada caucuses. The latest Public Policy poll shows Romney with 50 percent of the GOP total. He's doubled Newt's tally, more than tripled Ron Paul's and Rick Santorum? Rick, you should probably forget about Nevada.
Ron Paul isn't passing over anything, despite his poor numbers. Paul, today, tried to whip his crowd - make that a small crowd - into a frenzy.
(Excerpt from video clip) RON PAUL: Is everybody going to vote, come the weekend? I think if everybody voted in this room, we're going to win.
SHUSTER: Well, at least he's polling better than Santorum. Meanwhile, Romney is still trying to live down his gaffe of the week.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: I'm not concerned about the very poor, we have a safety net there.
SHUSTER: After several attempts to spin that comment, Romney offered a full back peddle last night during an interview on a Nevada talk show.
(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: It was a misstatement. I misspoke. You know, when you do how many thousands of interviews, now and then you may get it wrong.
SHUSTER: And when Mitt does get it wrong he can be confident that - so long as Newt Gingrich is running - he will try and rub it in.
(Excerpt from video clip) GINGRICH: Not a very clever thing for somebody who is very wealthy to say. I mean, talk about every possible example of what we don't want in a general-election candidate.
SHUSTER: For more on today's employment news, we're joined by Daniel Gross, columnist and Yahoo! Finance economics editor. Dan, great for being - great having you on the program tonight.
DANIEL GROSS: Happy to be here. Just for the record, I don't care about the very poor either.
SHUSTER: Dan, how significant was this employment report today? Is it a game changer for the economy, as some economists have suggested?
GROSS: Well, it was certainly one of the few employment reports we've had in the last few years that people could really get excited about. It was the number of jobs created - 243,000 - the fact that previous months were revised upwards. The unemployment rate falling, wages rising - these are the things you expect to see in a healthy, growing economy. So, if we have many more months of these, I think it really is a game changer. One month alone doesn't necessarily make a big difference.
SHUSTER: To that point, most economists had expected a gain of about 150,000, not the 243,000 that came in. Where did the jobs come from and any indication, based on today's figures, that employment will continue to pick up?
GROSS: Well, they come across the board. There were 50,000 jobs added in manufacturing. There were jobs added in professional services. In retail, people usually expect that after Christmas there's a lot of reduction in retail.
What this shows - I think the numbers showed it - through 2011, the economy started off very slow and then accelerated. Each quarter, growth was faster. It was .4 percent, 1.3, 1.8, probably 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter. And that shows, to me, that the economy was gaining strength, kind of gathering strength under itself and propelling forward into the first quarter. So, I don't think there's any reason - absent some kind of huge shock - that the economy will not continue to create a significant number of jobs.
SHUSTER: President Obama urged Congress today to pass the pay-roll-tax cut and unemployment-insurance extensions. How would the economy be affected if those measures do not pass very soon?
GROSS: Right, well, so he asked Congress not to muck it up and I think Congress may tell him to go muck himself. The pay-roll-tax cut - you know, if that is not extended, there's no question that the economy takes a hit. That is taking money out of people's hands who would otherwise spend, or invest, or save it. So, that would definitely take growth down by a peg.
Remember, it's not like we're growing at four or five percent, and it's no big deal if the rate of economic growth declines by a percentage point. We're growing somewhere between two and three, and that's still a little tenuous. So, I think it still is important for the economy and for the president to get an extension of the payroll tax.
SHUSTER: What about the plight of the long-term unemployed. Any good news for them in this report today?
GROSS: Well, just that fact that more jobs were created, the employment rate coming down. What you want is for there to be, kind of, less competition for jobs when they come open. Also, the fact - earlier this week we got first-time unemployment claims. They're down - down to the 370,000-a-week level. Way down from a year or two ago, which means fewer people going out into the job market.
The job market is nowhere near tight. We need it to be in a situation where employers are competing to hire people. That's when you get wages going up and that's when people who have been on the sidelines are able to jump back in. We're not there yet.
SHUSTER: The stock market shot up today. The NASDQ hit an 11-year high, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit its best mark in 3 1/2 years. Fair to say that, at least, the market isn't buying the GOP scare rhetoric?
GROSS: Clearly, David, the stock market has been rising since 2009 in anticipation of Mitt Romney's victory in November.
SHUSTER: Umm -
GROSS: That is the spin you hear from certain quarters. Look, the stock market is a futures market. When people think the economy is going to do better down the road, they tend to bid stocks up. And I think people like to talk about it in terms of politics - and it's a bet on Obama, it's a bet on Romney - it really has very little to do with that. Investors were more excited today because they saw this job creation, they expect that economic growth will continue and that tends to be good for stocks.
SHUSTER: A lot of folks still very concerned about what's going on in Europe. Is that the biggest pitfall ahead, some sort of external factor outside the United States that essentially causes an implosion here?
GROSS: Well look, Europe is our biggest trading partner, so whatever happens there has an impact on U.S. companies. Their banking system is very connected with ours, so if they have a meltdown in their banking system, that hurts our financial system.
But I actually think the greatest short-term danger, and perhaps overlooked, is Congress. If Congress doesn't do something very soon, this economy is in danger of putting up a very good year. And, when you look at the interests of Republicans, it's in their interest to perform in a sub-par manner. We saw last year with the uncertainty created by the debt ceiling and the prospects of default that - that really threw a scare into economic growth. So, we should be worried about Europe, but we should also be worried about mischief here at home.
SHUSTER: Yahoo! Finance columnist and economics editor Daniel Gross. Dan, always great to have you on the program. Have a great weekend.
GROSS: You, too.
SHUSTER: And for more on the political impact of today's jobs report, we're joined by Washington Post national political reporter and "Countdown" contributor Nia-Malika Henderson.
Nia, the Republicans didn't seem very happy with the good news about unemployment. Any indication, today, how they plan to run and beat the president on the issue if the jobs picture keeps getting better?
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON: Well, it looks like they were somewhat coordinated today in saying that they could do a better job, that certainly this was good news for the country, certainly good that so many jobs were created in January. But if they were to come in - if Mitt Romney was to come it and win the nomination and then win the White House - that he could apply his skills from the private sector, his skills as a turnaround artist, and make the recovery that much better. It happened that much more quickly.
But I think that's sort of a hard argument to sell. Mitt Romney has come in, and he's primarily running as a private-equity guy - somebody who's invested in companies and turned them around - he hasn't much talked about his record as a Massachusetts governor. So, I think it's going to be a harder argument. If the economy continues to pick up, as some economist suggest - that this will be a slow but sustained recovery over the next many months - I think it's going to be hard to keep casting aspersions on what the president has done.
SHUSTER: House Speaker John Boehner, in his pen-and-pad with reporters today, seemed a lot more eager to attack Harry Reid and the Democratic Senate majority than to attack President Obama today. What did you make of this? And could it be the start of some sort of trend? What's Boehner up to?
HENDERSON: Yeah, you know, I'm not really sure what they're up to. At some point they're all going to have to be coordinated. At some point there is going to be a new head of the Republican Party. It looks like it'll probably be Mitt Romney. He's looking strong, with Nevada coming up this Saturday. And it looks like he will probably be the nominee pretty soon here, at least a presumptive nominee.
But, you know, I think the Republicans - in some ways - have to press the reset button in terms of a lot of their rhetoric in terms of the economy because this president - I mean, if you look at the number, 3.7 million jobs, that's about as many jobs that George Bush created in his full eight years.
So, this idea that the president has damaged the economy and, you know, the stimulus package didn't work and that he doesn't know what he's doing - which is Mitt Romney's argument, which is the Republicans' argument more generally - it's just starting not to hold up, hold up to what is actually happened.
And I think, also, they don't have anything - Republicans - to show for what they've done this last year when John Boehner has been charge. They can't really take credit for anything that's happening. Because we, of course, remember some of the machinations over the debt ceiling and even over these payroll-tax cuts. They held it up in the House.
So, I think they're in a very difficult position. They've got to do some regrouping over these next days.
SHUSTER: And given that empty record, and given the numbers - the job-employment numbers, the momentum that the president may have on this - are the Democrats, perhaps, now in a position to really push the congressional GOP to pass the payroll-tax-cut and unemployment-insurance extensions this month?
HENDERSON: Yeah, I think they're certainly feeling pretty good, because they have a record and they can say, "What we've been able to do over these last months is showing some improvement." It's starting to show on these job numbers, in terms of the private sector, manufacturing jobs. So I think they're in a much better position.
You see the president's ratings going up in terms of his favorability. And so there is, I think, a slow sense that things are looking better. I think one of the things we'll have to look at is these wrong-track/right-track numbers, how people are generally feeling about the way the country is going, the way the economy is going.
But I think the Republicans - the Democrats were able to put together a really, really great week this week. And if you contrast that with Mitt Romney who, of course, made that gaffe that he's backed away from, saying that he doesn't care the very poor - well, let's face it, the very poor are some of these 15 million or so folks who are unemployed.
SHUSTER: And given that comment, how much were the Romney campaign operatives that you were talking with, how much were they wincing when Romney said that, then tried to defend it and then, finally - after 36 hours, that's how long it took him - to finally say, "okay, I made a mistake?"
HENDERSON: Yeah, that was - it was really odd. I mean, they felt like they could play the "he was taken out of context" game. But if you looked at it in the full context of it, it was still pretty bad.
And then, I think, one of the things that happened over these - you know, 24, 36 hours - was that Republicans really came out. Jim DeMint came out to say that he would have to really, kind of, take back what he said and really re-contextualize it. So, he was really hammered from the left and the right and he finally came out and completely retracted it.
But again, that's going to be a sound bite and an image and idea about Mitt Romney that lingers and lingers and lingers from months to come.
SHUSTER: Nia-Malika Henderson with The Washington Post, also a "Countdown" contributor. Nia, thank you very much and have a great weekend as well.
HENDERSON: Thank you, David.
SHUSTER: Up next, if you steal or swindle money from you neighbor, there's a good chance you'll face criminal sanctions. So why are so many backs getting a pass?
And later, the working girls at a brothel in Nevada. They say they've become disillusioned with President Obama and will now pimp for Ron Paul.
You're watching "Countdown."
SHUSTER: In the wake of their terrible decision over Planned Parenthood, today the Komen foundation tried to deal with its own uncertain future with what a very wise man tweeted today was, "The PR equivalent of the morning-after pill."
Some working girls in Nevada, looking ahead to tomorrow's GOP caucus, recently tried to deliver $1000 in cash to the Ron Paul campaign. The Ron Paul staffers didn't accept the money, but they also didn't exactly turn it away.
The NFL Super Bowl is this Sunday in Indianapolis but the Occupy Super Bowl in Indiana has already begun.
And, the world of ping pong is ablaze today with the arrival of its newest star and he is still in diapers.
SHUSTER: During his State of the Union address last week, President Obama called on Congress to toughen laws against securities fraud and strengthen the ability of the Securities and Exchange Commission to police financial institutions. But is that federal agency, the one charged with protecting investors and insuring fair markets, even trying to use the power it currently has?
In our fourth story on the "Countdown" - while the SEC has increased its scrutiny of Wall Street following the economic collapse, it has also repeatedly allowed some of the largest financial firms to avoid penalties intended to deter fraud.
An investigation by The New York Times uncovered nearly 350 instances where the SEC gave financial companies a pass on sanctions, allowing them to avoid liability from certain lawsuits and making it easier for the firms to raise money from investors. The move allowed companies like JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of America - three of the institutions bailed out during the credit crisis that began in 2008 - to keep benefits normally reserved for the healthiest companies.
Republican Senator Charles Grassley, who serves on the committee which oversees the SEC, told The Times, "It's really hard to see why the SEC isn't using all of its weapons to deter fraud. It makes already weak punishment even weaker by waving the regulations that impose significant consequences on the companies that settle fraud charges. No wonder recidivism is such a problem."
But SEC officials say the law is applied in the public's best interest. "The purpose of taking away the simplified path to capitalist to protect investors, not to punish a company. You're not seeing the times that waivers aren't being granted, because the companies don't ask when they know the answer will be no."
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is defending the nation's financial reforms. In a speech yesterday he noted that tighter regulations are already making the financial system stronger and safer, although there's still more to be done.
(Excerpt from video clip) TIMOTHY GEITHNER: Much of the excess risk-taking and careless and damaging financial practices that caused so much damage to the American economy have been forced out of the financial system. These gains, though, will erode over time if we're not able to put these full reforms into place.
SHUSTER: But apparently, the system isn't yet strong enough for New York's attorney general, who is accusing some of the nations' biggest banks of deceit and fraud. Today, Democrat Eric Schneiderman announced he's suing Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Well Fargo over their use of an electronic mortgage registry that he said puts homeowners at a disadvantage in foreclosure cases.
Let's bring in Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone contributing editor and a "Countdown" contributor. Matt, thanks for your time tonight.
MATT TAIBBI: Thanks for having me in.
SHUSTER: This analysis by The New York Times, is it a sign the SEC is just not doing enough, or - as the SEC seems to argue - they are enforcing the rules as they best suit the public and the economic recovery?
TAIBBI: First of all, it's a great story by The New York Times, it's a great piece of investigative journalism. I totally agree with Senator Grassley. It's yet another example of the SEC failing to do its job.
You have to think about the context of this. Imagine a single mother who gets caught for committing welfare fraud in someplace like Riverside County, California. She's going to lose her kids. I mean, they're going to take her kids away and put them in foster care. Here, you have these gigantic companies like JPMorgan Chase. They are serially caught committing fraud on a massive scale - much bigger than these small welfare-fraud cases - and they are allowed to continue engaging in the same kinds of business activities and they give them special waivers to go out and raise money. It's unbelievable we do not show the same kind of consideration to other kinds of citizens.
SHUSTER: And if the SEC, therefore, is not using its powers - deliberately so - doesn't that, essentially, blow a hole in President Obama's argument that, "Oh, the SEC should have more powers"?
TAIBBI: Yeah, no. It's ridiculous. I completely - again, I completely agree with Senator Grassley. The SEC, and - generally speaking, the financial regulators - already have enormous power. We don't really need expanded power for the regulators. We just need new regulators. They just haven't done the job. We need new people to come in there who are actually going to do the job of prosecuting and enforcing these rules.
SHUSTER: One of the people who is trying to prosecute, New York's Attorney General Schneiderman. Is he, essentially, doing what the federal government has failed to do?
TAIBBI: Absolutely. And this - and this lawsuit against the banks for the MERS violations is so long overdue. MERS is this electronic mortgage registry. It's essentially a gigantic scheme to evade taxes and commit perjury and fraud by, you know, failing to properly register mortgages. And yet, you have 12 million foreclosures here in New York state and they're all MERS as the plaintiff. But this a company has 70 employees. They couldn't possibly be the real plaintiff in all of these foreclosure cases. It's long overdue. It's incredible it took this long for somebody to move against the banks for setting up this registry. But it's a great thing that he did.
SHUSTER: And is that, perhaps, the only route the public has now - is to hope that state officials will continue to pursue this stuff. Given that the SEC, the federal government, seems incapable of doing it?
TAIBBI: I think it's probably the best hope, you know, certainly in New York. A state like New York has expanded power because they have the Martin act so they have - it's going to be easier for them to pursue cases against financial criminals.
But I also - I think, also, the Obama administration is finally starting to get a little bit of religion on all this stuff. You know, nominating Schneiderman to have this new committee to investigate securitization fraud. That, to me, is an indication that he is starting to see that people want action on these issues, they don't want more talk.
SHUSTER: As part of that action, though, mean either, you know, changing leadership of the SEC or, essentially, providing people in key positions who are actually going to use the power they should be using?
TAIBBI: Yeah, I - ultimately, they're going to need new people. I mean, the history of the SEC - and most of the regulators, in fact - is, you bring in a bunch of people from the banks that they should be investigating to run the enforcement divisions.
I mean, look - the current head of the SEC Enforcement Division is Bob Khuzami, who is the former General Counsel of Deutsche Bank, which is a bank that should be under investigation for a variety of things. And so, they have to, ultimately, get new people. But temporarily, I think they just need to take instruction from somebody and somebody needs to say, "You have to look into these things."
SHUSTER: While we've got you here, I got to ask you - listening to the Republicans in Florida and, before that, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa - the Republican presidential candidates are all about, "Let's get rid of financial regulatory reform. Everything the president did was wrong." What do you make of that?
TAIBBI: Well look, Dodd-Frank was dipping a toe in the lake of commitment, really. I mean, they could have done - and they needed to do - so much more to clean up Wall Street. If you think about what F.D.R. did after the crash, you know, back in the Depression, they completely reformed and cleaned up Wall Street. And we didn't do that this time. We really needed to.
But, for them to say that Dodd-Frank was going too far is preposterous. It's comic. And it's not really taken seriously here on Wall Street. But they're going to score a lot points, politically, with people who are against regulation in general.
SHUSTER: And so, when folks on Wall Street hear Mitt Romney or somebody else saying, "No regulatory reform," or "Let's get rid of everything that's been done so far." They're sort of laughing knowing, "Well, no, that doesn't solve the problem but we sort of love that Mitt Romney's sort of looking out to keep government off our backs."
TAIBBI: Absolutely. "He's standing up for us." I mean - And look, they have the expectation that they're going to get that rollback. I mean, they've been getting nothing but deregulation for 20, 30 years. And for them to have any regulation increased at all is an aberration. So, they have a full expectation that, eventually, all of these laws will be whittled away again. It's just - it will take them a little while.
SHUSTER: Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, also a "Countdown" contributor. Matt, great to see you. Thanks for coming in.
TAIBBI: Thanks for having me.
SHUSTER: Just ahead, the Komen Foundation today apologized to Planned Parenthood and reversed that decision to cut money from the group. But the damage Komen inflicted upon itself may not heal very quickly. We will explain.
But up next, the kid is still not potty trained and yet, he's learned how to swing a ping pong paddle? In "Time Marches On!"
SHUSTER: Coming up, the Susan G. Komen foundation reverses its decision on Planned Parenthood. What took them so long?
But first, the "Sanity Break," and this is a very historic day.
On this day in 1809 the Territory of Illinois was created. The 15th and 16th Amendments were both ratified today, 43 years apart.
In 1959, rock-and-roll stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper died in a plane crash.
And lastly, in 2008 the 12-point underdog New York Jets upset the previously-undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl LXII. Unfortunately for the Giants, history will not be repeating itself.
"Time Marches On."
VIDEO: (NO CLIP AVAILABLE)
We begin in the Russian area of Caucasuses where this rural farmer has created the newest business, the sheep carwash. Hey, don't forget the hot wax!
I'm not sure how clean this car is actually getting, but the good news is I'm sure this guy had no trouble falling asleep when he got home.
VIDEO: Woman drives car into Malaysian bike shop.
To Kuala Lumpur.
Pfew! That was a close one. Luckily, this driver was able to slow down before jamming into the bike store.
But then, our hero decides to take another shot at achieving a perfect parking job, and - cue the Blues Brothers' music. It soon becomes clear that this is no accident, as the driver slams into the store over and over again.
Could this be a business deal gone bad or a jilted lover or maybe, just maybe, she's just trying to prove a point that four wheels are better than two?
VIDEO:Baby plays ping pong with his father.
Finally, to the sports world, where I think we have found the next ping pong prodigy. He has the poise of Danny Seemiller and the killer forehand of Mark "Haz" Hazinski.
It is too late to qualify for the London Olympics, but the national team better keep a spot open for 2016.
Looks like he still needs a little work, maybe on the backhand. But, there are other issues as well, mainly the sitting on the table part, crying when he loses a point, and - of course - soiling his uniform.
But also, everyone knows there is no crying in ping-pong.
"Time Marches On!"
Coming up, political endorsements usually don't matter very much, unless they come from Donald Trump or a brothel in Nevada. Well, you heard about Trump yesterday. We'll tell you about the brothel today and the reaction, of course, from the Ron Paul campaign.
But up next, the Komen Foundation spent 30 years building up its reputation. The group's current leadership needed just 36 hours to destroy it. Is their apology enough?
Ahead, on "Countdown."
SHUSTER: We bring you "Countdown" live each night at 8:00 P.M. Eastern. Primary replays at 11:00 P.M. and 2:00 A.M. Eastern.
In an effort at damage control, the Susan G. Komen Foundation made a huge reversal today, but in this case, their cure may be too late to save the group's reputation. In our third story on the "Countdown" - the world's largest breast-cancer research organization made a U-turn this morning and apologized for originally deciding to cut off funds to Planned Parenthood for breast-cancer screenings.
In a written statement Komen said, "We will continue to fund existing grants, including those in Planned Parenthood and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants." The group also vowed to amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be "criminal and conclusive in nature and not political because that is what is right and fair."
By all accounts, Komen is the most widely-known and well-funded breast-cancer organization in the world. To date, their campaigns have raised $1.9 billion, and in recent years Komen's pink ribbons and pink partnerships have become part of our cultural fabric. Komen convinced Major League Baseball to show solidity with the group's mission through pink baseball bats. There have been pink yogurt lids as part of a donation effort to "save lives." Kentucky Fried Chicken rolled out pink buckets for the cure, and even Delta got involved through pink airline flights.
In September, an ardent pro-life Republican in the House launched his own investigation of abortion services performed by Planned Parenthood, and three days ago - citing that investigation - Komen severed its ties to Planned Parenthood. And the revolt from Komen donors and supporters alike was immediate and fierce. Reaction poured out across Twitter, Facebook, Komen's own message boards. Over two dozen lawmakers signed on to a letter urging Komen to reverse its decision.
Planned Parenthood kept the social media momentum going, retweeting positive messages, sharing news links, and reminding people across the internet how to donate and make up for Komen's cuts.
Komen responded defensively, and then, couldn't get its story straight. On Wednesday, Komen CEO Nancy Brinker delivered a YouTube message claiming that grant rules ban funding for groups under investigation. Brinker did not mention Planned Parenthood once, though she said Komen will "never bow to political pressure."
On Thursday, Brinker insisted Komen didn't cut off funds because of their "no investigation" rule, which they only enforced in Planned Parenthood's case, but that Komen was simply "streamlining" the grant process and that the public was "totally supportive."
(Excerpt from video clip) ANDREA MITCHELL: Look at you Facebook page. Your Facebook page has people cutting pink ribbons in half.
(Excerpt from video clip) NANCY BRINKER: Well, Andrea -
(Excerpt from video clip) MITCHELL: Your branding is at stake.
(Excerpt from video clip) BRINKER: All I can tell you is that we are - the responses we're getting are very, very favorable.
SHUSTER: So favorable that, less than 18 hours after that interview, Komen decided to reverse course and apologize. As for Planned Parenthood, the Komen miscue the past few days prompted a flood of donations totaling more than three million dollars. Joining us now is Jess McIntosh, deputy communications director for EMILY's List. Jess, thanks for your time tonight.
JESS McINTOSH: Thanks for having me.
SHUSTER: Is Komen really sorry, or are they just really sorry that, in this world of social media, they called out on it so quickly and powerfully?
McINTOSH: Look, I think they totally underestimated the backlash, and this just goes to show the power of activists and donors and elected officials when they put the pressure on.
But, what matters now is what happens next. And frankly, women are sick of having to fight back every time our health care is threatened. And frankly, the most effective way to do that is to elect more pro-choice, Democratic women to Congress in the first place, so we can stop these attacks at their source. That's the mission of EMILY's List and what we're hoping to do more of in 2012.
SHUSTER: There's still seems to be, though, a threat from Komen in the future. I mean, their statement today indicates that Planned Parenthood will be eligible to apply for grants, but the statement does not guarantee that Planned Parenthood will receive funding in the future. Isn't this a problem?
McINTOSH: I mean, I think that it's certainly a case for us to remain vigilant, but we're pro-choice women. Vigilance is sort of what we do. I think that this was a PR disaster for Komen, but whenever you adopt a tea party ideology, it's usually a PR disaster. I mean, remember "ending Medicare as we know it?" That was a PR disaster. The attempts to redefine rape, that was a PR disaster. Cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood is usually a PR disaster, so you think that they would have learned their lesson by now, but I guess not.
SHUSTER: It certainly, though, it feels different. I mean, Planned Parenthood has long drawn the wrath of the anti-abortion movement, as well as congressional Republicans who attempted to strip Planned Parenthood of funding entirely with an amendment that House Republicans tacked onto a federal funding bill, and that issue even threatened a government shutdown. What happened in this particular case? What was it about this issue that caused this kind of backlash?
McINTOSH: Look, this is just the latest in a long litany of Republican attempts to curtail women's access to health care. And every time they try, we fight back. And every time we fight back, we get a little better and we get a little stronger. I mean, at EMILY's List alone, since Boehner took over for - as speaker, we've doubled our membership. So, the next time we have to fight this fight, we're going to do it at one million strong, and we're ready for the next round.
SHUSTER: Not everybody was thrilled with Komen's reversal today. Senator David Vitter of Louisiana who, merely days ago, approved Komen's actions, said today in a press release, "While Komen now claims that they don't want their mission to be marred by politics, unfortunately it seems that Komen caved to political pressure from the pro-abortion movement and its enforcers in the media." What do you make of that?
McINTOSH: Yeah, David Vitter was the only one who didn't get the memo that Republicans weren't supposed to crow about Komen cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood. Look, Republicans - and Republican men in particular, and David Vitter in particular - are hellbent on cutting off access to women's health care, and frankly, we're hellbent on fighting back. So, I urge you and your viewers to check out our awesome female candidates at emilyslist.org. If we can - if we can replace some of these guys with Democratic women who are actually going to stand up and support women and families, wouldn't that be an awesome thing?
SHUSTER: And, of course, never mind replacing a Republican congressman like Congressman Sterns, who launched this ridiculous investigation in the fall, anyway. What about replacing the leadership of Komen? I mean, it's traditionally been sort of a nonpartisan organization. There are lots of Democrats who wear the pink ribbons, and on and on. Does something need to be done with their leadership at this point?
McINTOSH: It's true. It's true. And I think that - I mean, that's going to be up to Komen's supporters. I think that it's been amazing to see the outpouring of support for Planned Parenthood. I think that people know how to show their advocacy with tweets and with dollars, and I think we're going to see more of that and they'll make their decisions based on - based on their base.
SHUSTER: Jess McIntosh. Jess, thank you so much. We appreciate your time tonight.
McINTOSH: Thanks for having me.
SHUSTER: You're welcome.
Coming up, a closer look at the activism that has arrived in Indianapolis, Indiana. The kickoff for Occupy the Super Bowl happened today.
And up next, a brothel in Nevada tried to give donations to the Ron Paul campaign. The campaign responded by - well, you just have to watch.
SHUSTER: In a part of Nevada where prostitution is legal, the ladies at an infamous brothel have now endorsed Ron Paul. They say Dr. Paul has some special skills. And in Indianapolis where the Patriots are favored over the Giants by a field goal, the Occupy Super Bowl has already begun, and do not bet against the protesters.
SHUSTER: Yesterday on this program, we reported on the full-throated endorsement Donald Trump gave in Las Vegas to Mitt Romney. Today, we have an update on another firm Nevada endorsement. This one for Ron Paul.
As you know, Paul is a Libertarian, and relatedly, he believes that certain issues - such as the legalization of drugs and prostitution - should be up to individual states.
(Excerpt from video clip) PAUL: If I leave it to the states, it's going to be up to the states. Up until this past century, you know, for over 100 years, they were legal.
SHUSTER: That statement went down really well in Nevada, particularly at the state's most famous brothel, The Moonlite Bunny Ranch. Prostitution is legal is nearly a dozen Nevada counties, and the working girls at the Moonlite Ranch, who reportedly love a good caucus, met and decided to endorse Paul's candidacy. They put up a sign - "Pimpin' for Paul" - and owner Dennis Hof promised special favors for any customer who joins the campaign.
(Excerpt from video clip) DENNIS HOF: If a client comes into the Bunny Ranch and says, "I'm pimpin' for Paul," they're going to have a real good time, aren't they, girls?
(Excerpt from video clip) MOONLITE BUNNIES: Yeah!
SHUSTER: Yay! Given that level of enthusiasm, one wonders if the girls are really into this for the politics.
Anyway, endorsements usually mean nothing to most voters. Still, the endorser's logic can be entertaining. And in the case of the working girls, more than a few said they were impressed that Ron Paul is a doctor.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: He know what women's wants and what women's needs are, and when it comes to a man that's going to be in office, you want a man that knows his way around a woman.
SHUSTER: Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. He knows his way around a woman? Good grief! By that reasoning, you should have endorsed Newt Gingrich.
Several girls noted today that they endorsed President Obama back in 2008. But last year, they apparently became disillusioned when Mr. Obama approved a law that allows the consumption of horse meat. Curiously, one of the working girls is able to speak for animals, including her pet dog.
(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN #2: We're all animal lovers, and Gucci is also supporting Ron Paul because he feels like if Obama will let us eat the horses, he could be next.
SHUSTER: Yeah, that's exactly right - since horse meat is now legal in very limited circumstances, get ready for dog meat. Cami, don't quit your night job.
Thankfully, the story has a happy ending, at least concerning the Federal Election Commission.
You see, the Bunny Ranch girls collected nearly a thousand dollars for the Paul campaign. Then, when they tried to hand it to his staff, Paul's campaign workers declined to accept the money. They noted some campaign-finance issues and encouraged the girls to give the cash - in 20s, 50s and 100s - to Ron Paul's super PAC.
That's right. Whereas Citizens United at the Bunny Ranch once meant an orgy, now - thanks to the Paul campaign - even some prostitutes have gotten a lesson on campaign finance. And they've learned there are multiple meanings when you talk about hard money and soft.
Ron Paul, bless you.
SHUSTER: Two days ago, Indiana governor Mitch Daniels officially made his state the 23rd to pass "right to work" legislation, laws that have nothing to do with work and everything to do with defunding unions.
In our number-one story - with the most-watched sporting event in the world occurring in Indianapolis on Sunday, a coalition of organized labor and Occupy protesters have an ideal platform to voice their displeasure.
After a partisan 28-22 vote passing the bill, and then the signature by Governor Mitch Daniels, three thousand protesters took to the streets to express their outrage. They marched from the capitol building directly to Lucas Oil Stadium, home of Sunday's Super Bowl.
While some Hoosiers have tried to argue that the Super Bowl is not the place to make a statement about labor, there are many people who would disagree. Namely, the people who are actually playing in the game.
Today, NFL and Indiana labor leaders joined together to protest possible layoffs at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Indianapolis. The hotel stands to make millions from the influx of people for the Super Bowl, but it has announced plans to cut jobs. Coincidentally, the decision to terminate employees came days after a number of local hotel workers filed a federal lawsuit claiming wage theft and other violations.
Occupy protesters have also decided - have also descended on Indianapolis, and plan to Occupy the Super Bowl in a show of solidarity with the Indiana labor unions.
But while some lawmakers and NFL execs fear protesters will interfere with the game itself, Indiana AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott said that there are no plans to interrupt the game: "While we understand the anger and frustration of working Hoosiers over this disgraceful passage of the so-called "right to work" bill, the appropriate outlet will be at the ballot box, not the Super Bowl."
All of this puts a great deal of pressure on Governor Daniels, who was looking at the Super Bowl as a chance to raise the profile as Indianapolis, a city once known as "India-no place."
Daniels has warned that any activism damaging the Super Bowl will be akin to giving Indiana a black eye. Governor, it would be no worse than what your administration has already done to the Hoosier state.
Joining us now is Mike Biskar, an organizer for the Unite Here Union who helped lead the protest at the Hyatt hotel. Mike, thanks for your time tonight.
MIKE BISKAR: Thanks for having me.
SHUSTER: Are these protests going on right now simply because of the platform the Super Bowl presents, or is this something that would be happening anyway?
BISKAR: Well, you know, these hotels like the Hyatt Corporation are slated to make millions of dollars during the Super Bowl. And yet, Indianapolis hotel workers are some of the lowest paid in the nation.
And what's worse, just a couple of weeks ago, as you mentioned before - what's worse than that is that these hotel workers, they actually, the Hyatt terminated the contract with their subcontracted workers. And this happened just ten days after, as you had said, a group of workers had filed a historic lawsuit that could be worth up to $10 million in back wages for these people.
And so, we felt it was important to take to the streets today and to let the Hyatt know that the community is angry about their recent decision to throw these workers out. I mean, these are the women who clean the rooms, who cook the food, who wash the dishes. And we think that sends a bad message to our community, so that's why we're out there today.
SHUSTER: I've actually stayed at that Hyatt in downtown Indianapolis. It is obviously one of the most popular hotels right there. It doesn't have a cash-flow problem. How has the Hyatt justified what it's trying to do?
BISKAR: Well, you know, the Hyatt is one of the largest hotel corporations in the world. And yet, part of the problem is that, here in Indianapolis, there are currently no unionized hotels. It is the largest American city without a single unionized hotel. And compared to other similar-sized Midwestern cities - where workers do have union representation, that make $2, $3, $5 more an hour with better insurance.
And so, part of the problem is that here in Indianapolis, without any union representation in any of the hotels, the Hyatt is able to get away with quite a bit, and so they've been really able to run wild and subcontract out the jobs of these folks without any sort of sense of accountability.
SHUSTER: Tell me about the interest of the NFL Players Association and why they appeared with you today.
BISKAR: It was wonderful. You know, of all days, DeMaurice Smith, the Executive Director of the NFL Players Association, he came out on his birthday. He walked the picket line with us. It was tremendous to have them out there supporting the hotel workers. You know, they've been really strong allies for a number of years now with Hyatt workers, here locally and around the country. And they're a very high-profile organization, so, obviously, we think it sends a very powerful message to the Hyatt Corporation.
In particular, DeMaurice spoke and said that, as of today, they would be canceling any future events. He would not be eating, meeting, or sleeping at any Hyatt hotels around the world. We think that sends a very powerful message to them.
SHUSTER: Was it a message that the Hyatt received? Was there any response from them?
BISKAR: As of now, no. We have not heard of any response. But we do think it sends a very powerful message.
SHUSTER: Agreed. Would this sort of worker neglect be happening if these workers in Indianapolis were allowed to unionize?
BISKAR: Absolutely not. You know, as I said, this is the largest American city without a single union hotel. And we look at similar-sized cities, where workers do have union representation in the Midwest - they're making more money, they have better insurance.
And it's really not just an economic issue. We also find that it's a health and safety issue. The housekeepers here at the Indianapolis Hyatt can clean up to 30 rooms in a day, whereas their unionized counterparts are cleaning up to 16 rooms in a day in Chicago. And frankly, recently, Indiana OSHA filed and found over $50,000 of health and safety violations against the Hyatt and their subcontractors.
So no, we think that the answer is that if there was unionization here in the hotels, we would not find these same kinds of working conditions.
SHUSTER: Mike, what's the atmosphere in Indianapolis? What does it feel like and taste like tonight? I mean, I know that, you know, I grew up in Indiana. I know that there's a huge amount of excitement over the Super Bowl, and the Fan Fest and everything else.
And yet, the timing of Daniels signing this bill this week, the reaction that sparked and the sort of clash - how is it all playing out?
BISKAR: Well, you know, I think that for us in the Indianapolis hotel industry, you know, "right to work for less" bill is obviously something that's going to be terrible for working people here in Indiana. And you know, there's been a billion tax dollars invested in this Indianapolis hospitality industry.
But there is a promise of good jobs that was supposed to come with that money. And, because there's no union representation in the hotels, we have terrible jobs. The worst of the worst here in Indiana, and frankly, I think that this recent push for "right to work," really what it's doing is - it's trying to bring unionized industries down in Indiana down to the level where the hospitality workers have been at already.
SHUSTER: And what does it say that the state - Indiana - is willing to spend so much money to bring the Super Bowl there, but basically nothing to protect the workers who serve the food, who clean up the rooms, and et cetera and et cetera?
BISKAR: I think what it says is that just because we give our tax dollars to these companies doesn't mean that they're automatically going to create good jobs, that we have to hold them accountable. Companies like Hyatt, we have to hold them accountable, and if we don't, we see that they run wild.
One thing that was wonderful was that the newly-elected president of the Indianapolis city council, Maggie Lewis, also joined us out there today. And she also is honoring the boycott of the Hyatt. And we hope that other city officials will do the same.
SHUSTER: Mike Biskar, organizer for the Unite Here Union. Mike, thanks, and have a great weekend. We appreciate it.
BISKAR: All right. Thanks.
SHUSTER: And that is our show for tonight. I'm David Shuster. On behalf of everybody at "Countdown," thanks for watching. Have a great weekend, everybody.