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Starting Next Year Businesses With Federal Contracts Must Pay At Least $10.10 Per Hour; Senate Doesn't Have Enough Votes Yet To Move Forward "Clean" Debt Bill; Jeter To Retire From Baseball After 2014 Season; Clarence Thomas: We are Too Sensitive About Race

Aired February 12, 2014 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So today I am issuing an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour. This will make a difference for folks. Right now there is a dishwasher in Texas making $7.76 an hour. There is a fast food worker at the Andrews making $8.91 an hour, a laundry worker making $9.03.

Once I sign this order as the contracts come up, each of them and many of the fellow co-workers will get a raise. By the way, that includes folks who get paid in tips. They will get a raise too. The tip raise has gone up even slower than the regular minimum wage. As it's good for companies across the country, this will be good for contractors and taxpayers. The opponents of the minimum wage, time and again they have been proven wrong.

Raising the minimum wage is good for business and workers and good for the economy. Puts more money in these folks' pockets. They have money to go shopping, which in turn means the business as more customers which means they my hire more workers and make more of a profit. Let's not forget, anything good for the economy is the right thing to do. There is a simple moral principal at stake if you take responsibility and work as hard as these folks work, you work full time, you shouldn't be living in poverty. Not in America.

We believe that. I will do whatever I can to raise working Americans' wages. I would ask any governor and mayor and local leader listening, do what you can to raise your employee's wages. To work a majority of Americans who are Republicans too. Support raising the minimum wage. It's the right thing to do. That's something Congress should keep in mind this year. There is a bill in front of both the House and the Senate that would boost America's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, 10.10. Let's get that done.

Raise the federal minimum wage to 10.10 would not just raise wages for minimum wage Americans, but lift millions of Americans out of poverty immediately. It would help millions more work their way out without requiring a single dollar of new taxes. It's the right thing to do. Including seven Nobel Prize winners wrote the leaders to remind them the bill before Congress would have little or no negative effect on hiring. They will give more customers to grow the economy for everybody.

Congress has a clear choice to make. Raise our workers' wages and grow the economy. They let wage stagnate further. Restore unemployment looking for the job. They are exposed further to hardship. You can help people make progress. They deserve to know where it stands on the issue. Ask your senator. Ask your representative in the House. Do you support raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour?

If they say yes, tell them good job. They don't hear that that often. Give them a pat on the back or a hug and let them know way to go. That's the right thing to do. If they say no, be polite. Don't just yell at them, but say why not? Ask them to reconsider siding with an overwhelming majority of Americans. Encourage them to say yes. Give America a raise. I'm about to sign this executive order. You hear me talking about my pen and my phone to make a difference for middle class Americans, this is what I mean.

I'm going to do what I can. Congress can do what it needs to do. I will not give up on the fight no matter how long it takes. America deserves a raise. Working families deserve to know some more economic security in their own lives. We have to create new jobs and strengthen the middle class and have new ladders of opportunity just like these folks are doing right here.

There millions of Americans who can just use a boost, millions of Americans outside of Washington. The old stale political arguments or tired of folks who are tired of big lobbyists. The folks out there who want to see them restore the economy and get back to our founding vision of opportunity for all. I know you guys will work with me. Go out there and organize some more. Let's give Americans a raise right now. I will sign this.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: A raise. The president saying he is raising the minimum raise for federal contract workers from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. Gloria Borger, when you look at the polls, this is the latest poll, raise minimum wage and support 72 percent, that's overwhelming support when it comes to Americans. I did know this, Gloria. A lot of women there and the president talked about what he is doing for women with this.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He did. Well, you know, a majority of low wage earners are women. The Democratic Party has a great advantage. With women voters right now that they clearly want to keep. One way to do that is to talk about pay equity, which is something you recall the president talked about in the state of the union. Minimum wage is another issue that has a lot of traction with women workers. They are very often at the lower end of the scale.

LEMON: Gloria, I want to talk about this. The president had a joke about Congress and said urge other people to do it and urge Congress. If they do, fight for it in their district, tell them good job because they don't hear that a lot.

BORGER: Right.

LEMON: They are working on the debt ceiling and it can happen at any moment. The president is willing to work with Congress. It is a busy day in Washington. BORGER: There is. What Republicans are trying to do in the Senate is get five of them to vote with the Democrats because Ted Cruz, the republican in Texas is threatening to filibuster increase in the debt ceiling that does not include spending cuts as we know. John Boehner said OK, we can't get what we want and a lot of his Republicans they did and we will have to see what happens with that. It would be a victory if it were a clean bill.

LEMON: Stand by. There is movement on this, Lisa Desjardins on the Hill.

LISA DESJARDIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This has been one of the most dramatic last 45 minutes I have seen in the Senate for a long time and that's saying something. If we can pull up the picture, you are seeing they are still in a roll call vote that began almost an hour ago. It's taken that long because they could not get the 60 votes need to pass the debt ceiling suspension bill. We have just learned in the past couple of minutes there is a lot of gathering.

Two key Republicans, Senators John Cornyn and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell switched votes to yes. That's what Ted Barrett is reporting. That is a stunning move. Those are two conservatives who talk about the debt all the time. They talk about the debt ceiling. We did not want them to vote yes today.

Probably thinking about the markets and watching the vote and seeing that this debt ceiling suspension was poised to fail. It still appears it needs one more vote. Those two leaders switching implies that they think there is a way out that they haven't gotten out of this yet. It is something we are watching a little bit breathlessly.

When you think about this debt ceiling vote, Don, this is the full faith and credit of the United States. That is what it is. Paying their bills on time and that's at stake here. All of this happening right now too because of the snowstorm arriving on the east coast, senators wanted to take this vote to get out of town before the snowstorm hit.

This vote that usually takes about a half hour now stretching into an hour fascinating, really some serious drama right now and I can bet a lot of people on Wall Street are watching this and around the world as they get word that there is some for the moment in the state and the U.S. Senate.

LEMON: My goodness. Lisa, stand by on that. Again, a busy day in Washington and it has to do with your money. We are following all day.

Coming up next, breaking news from the sports world, baseball star Derek Jeter has a big announcement about his future. We will tell you about it next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Derek Jeter hanging up the cleats. The New York Yankees just announced that he will retire at the end of the season. Made the announcement, by the way, in a Facebook post, 39 years old due to a broken ankle, played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball. His final season will be at the end of 2014. Now we got to Jason Catania. He is the MLB lead writer for "Bleacher Report." What do you know about this? Why now?

JASON CATANIA, MLB LEAD WRITER, "BLEACHER REPORT(via telephone): I think basically it looks like he saw what happened and he got a front row seat at that and saw the send-off to go well. And there is really and how his last season went and seems like as get of a time as any. It's not super surprising considering he is at this stage of his career.

LEMON: Thank you very much. Derek Jeter announcing the 2014 season will be his last. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas announced that Americans are too sensitive about race issues these days. Is he right? We will discuss after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: This one is going to spark controversy. How do I know it because we are talking about race and we are going to talk about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Did you hear what he said about race in America? We dwell on it too much. We are all too sensitive about it and everybody needs to buck up and realize that each and every one of us gets our feelings hurt by something somebody said or did to us. That's the cliff notes version of what Justice Thomas reportedly told students yesterday at Palm Beach Atlantic.

A none denominational Christian university in Florida. No TV cameras allowed, but here's what Thomas said as reported by Yahoo News. My sadness is that we are probably today more race and difference conscious than I was in the 1960s when I went to school. To my knowledge, I was the first black kid in Savannah, Georgia to go to a white school and rarely did the issue of race come up.

Now name a day it doesn't come up. Differences in race and differences in sex, somebody doesn't look at you right, somebody says something. Everybody is sensitive. If I had been as sensitive as that in the 1960's, I would still be in Savannah. Does Clarence Thomas have a point?

Here to talk about it now, attorney and V103 radio personality, No Ivory in Atlanta and here in D.C. is Crystal Wright, she is the editor and blogger at conservativeblackchick.com. OK, so is Clarence Thomas right? Are we too sensitive when it comes to our difference including race, first to you, Crystal?

CRYSTAL WRIGHT, EDITOR AND BLOGGER, CONSERVATIVEBLACKCHICK.COM: Yes, I think we are too sensitive and it reminds me of when parents were fighting for civil rights and living in the segregated south in Richmond, Virginia. They sat in at lunch counters. They integrated schools. You know why to end racism.

We have people in the business of wanting to keep racism alive so they can make money. People like Al Sharpton and I'm not going to go down the list of things he has done. Now we are in a situation where you have people actively looking, hunting, Don, for racism and to call people homophobes and to talk about sexism so they can make a living off of it.

They are shaking down corporate America and you have a hyper sensitivity where white people are afraid not to even engage in honest dialogue on race.

LEMON: Mo, what do you think? Are we too sensitive?

MO IVORY, ATTORNEY AND V-103 RADIO PERSONALITY: Wow. I would have to disagree with partially what she said. But no, I don't think we are too sensitive, but we just have a more open forum to bring it out. During the civil rights movement or the time that Clarence Thomas is talking about, it wasn't so acceptable to be able to just come out and say what you felt because you feared that there would be retaliation whether you would be attacked.

It wasn't such an environment where we were able to express our views about it. But I don't think that people like Al Sharpton, for example, take the liberty to call the race card. There wouldn't be a race card if something racial wasn't going on. All of the instances that you see particularly the Reverend Al Sharpton and other leaders speaking on issues, cases that involve race or racial profiling or murders involving a racial issue is because it was race that was invoked in the crime to begin with.

It's not always pulling the race card as easily as she did. Breaking down corporate America is one of the biggest places where racism occurs.

LEMON: Let's not get too far. You are talking about being sensitive about race and talking about average everyday Americans being too sensitive about race. You said you partially disagreed with her. What did you agree with her about, Mo?

IVORY: Well, I do think that there is definitely some people who use race as a way to profit and as a way to bring themselves to the forefront. That part I do agree with. The people she mentioned are not part at all. Most of the times when you see the people come out and have sensitivity is because race has been evoked in the beginning.

LEMON: All right, Crystal.

WRIGHT: You talked about Al Sharpton who calls himself a reverend. Al Sharpton has gotten wealthy of wrongly accusing people of racism. Reverent Jesse Jackson, I want to give you an example so you don't misrepresent. Texaco as both of you remember was sued several years back over a decade. They were sued and the case never went to trial for the black jelly beans and the comment by some employees.

The reason why the case never went to trial, Texaco was so afraid of their name being drawn through the media constantly and they settled out of court for nearly $200 million. We don't know what the accusations were.

IVORY: The only thing settled was because they didn't want their name dragged through the mud.

LEMON: Let her finish. Go ahead. I got this. I will referee. Go ahead.

WRIGHT: I know, but she is talking over me.

IVORY: Go ahead.

WRIGHT: When my parents and my father was the only black on his dental school and he was downgraded and helped the white kids study and the white kids got better grades than him. He didn't let that hold him back, but he was not using his race. The reason why is because there is no way post 1964 that anybody could do that single- handedly and force Texaco to give $200 million. Our discussion is not honest. White people feel they can't criticize the president. That's wrong.

LEMON: Stand by. Hang on. Let me jump in. I now in this morning and I get off the plane and our colleague are saying do you hear what people are saying? They are saying that you said that Samuel L. Jackson looks like Lawrence fish burn. They don't look anything alike. I never said that. I had a conversation about the differences in people and not being able to recognize race.

It was turned around by people in the business of getting clicks on their web sites and it's more insidious of people of color. And it can be hurtful for something that was never said or intended to say. She has a point and you have a point with that. It's ridiculous. It is making African-Americans look bad.

WRIGHT: Don, wait.

LEMON: Go ahead, Mo. Hang on.

IVORY: I hear what you are saying in terms of the sensitivity and divisiveness, but I have to go back to a white person doesn't feel like they can criticize President Obama without being called a racist.

WRIGHT: It's true.

IVORY: That is ridiculous considering that every day on the news a white person is criticizing President Obama. We have groups.

LEMON: It depends on the network you turn on.

IVORY: There is a network that is dedicated to criticizing President Obama on a racial issue. To say that white people can't criticize the president?

WRIGHT: Mo, that is your opinion and you know you are misrepresenting the truth.

IVORY: No, I'm not.

WRIGHT: Fox News gets to --

IVORY: They are representing reality.

WRIGHT: Let me finish, mo.

IVORY: Once she stops talking over me, I will make a point. I am called names on Twitter every day. It's not because I say crazy things. It's because I like don and stop talking over me. I like don talk about the problems affecting black Americans and people like you don't want to have an honest discussion.

WRIGHT: The way you see them.

IVORY: I'm an American. It doesn't make me wrong. At the end of the day, I want to finish this. At the end of the day, the only way any of us will have an honest discussion is if you stop attacking me for my opinion and we allow.

WRIGHT: And you stop attacking me for mine.

IVORY: I haven't attacked you.

LEMON: Se should stop attacking each other and stop calling each other names. Let me tell you something. Crystal, why do you give a crap what someone said about you on Twitter? It's called hater. Let them say that.

WRIGHT: They say it in other forms too.

IVORY: Sometimes there might be truth to it.

WRIGHT: Listen. It's a chamber for extreme opinions.

IVORY: Come on.

LEMON: You shouldn't worry about it. Don't take those things personally. If that's your truth, keep saying it. Mo, keep saying your truth and stop attacking each other.

IVORY: I agree. This proves the point that people are really sensitive when it comes to race.

WRIGHT: Racism is still a big deal.

IVORY: That's where we agree.

LEMON: I love both of you and can't we all just get along.

WRIGHT: Yes.

IVORY: Sure.

LEMON: We will finish our conversation. Bye, Mo. Bye, Crystal, stay warm down in Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

You too. We have to go to breaking news and the fight over America's debt ceiling. Nearly half million people are without power right now and the storm is slamming the southeast. We are going to talk about that.