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THE VAN JONES SHOW
Van Jones Talks with Sen. Amy klobuchar (D-MN) Presidential Candidate; Van Jones Talks With Taraji P. Henson. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired April 6, 2019 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:00:00] VAN JONES, CNN HOST: Good evening. I'm Van Jones. Welcome to THE VAN JONES SHOW. Tonight you got to hear from two powerful women who are using their platforms to build bridges and find some kind of understanding, which we desperately need right now.
One is working on the political level she is a 2020 contender. She's hoping that her more moderate views might take her all the way to the White House her name is Senator Amy Klobuchar. She's going to be here. I'm so excited to have her here. Also - yes, come on now, show some love.
Also we're going to be hearing from a Golden Globe winning actress who's using her star power to shine the spotlight on mental health and on civil rights. Everybody loves her on Empire, Taraji P. Henson in the building. Oh, so much greatness - so much greatness to come.
But first let's talk about the news. Once again we are facing a crisis of credibility and confusion. Got big questions swirling around Attorney General Bill Barr's four-page summary of an almost 400 page report. And now some of Bob Mueller's investigators have reportedly told associates that Barr did not convey how damaging the findings actually are for President Trump.
So now you got the white - you got the House Democrats, they've got a subpoena ready to go to get to the bottom of this. Trump says it's all harassment. In the meantime, we're all in the dark just waiting to try to get some kind of truth and transparency. And there's honestly plenty of reason to be skeptical at anything coming out of the administration, because let's face it, in too many cases, the President just makes stuff up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My father is German - right - was German, and born in a very wonderful place in Germany.
If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75 percent in value, and they say the noise causes cancer. There were a lot of close elections that were - they seemed to every single one of them went Democrat. It was close. They say the Democrat where - there's something going on fellah - you got to - hey you got to be a little bit more paranoid than you are.
(END VIDEO CLIP) JONES: OK. First of all, Trump's dad was born in New York. As far as Democrats winning all the close races, tell that to Andrew Gilliam in Florida or Stacey Abrams in Georgia, both of them lost their Governor's races by razor thin margins, they were Democrats.
And as for windmills, first of all, they are wind turbines - OK. It's not Holland, it's not 1820. They're called wind turbines and they can power a farm or a neighborhood with zero pollution, that's better for property values than a smokestack, OK?
And that's why progressives stay skeptical. They think he's making up stuff for no good reason. What if he did have a good reason? You know, like what's in his tax returns, et cetera?
Second of all, a post fact America just worries me. Democracies run on good information. The White House doesn't even bother to correct Trump's craziest claims anymore. I guess, they just figure, his own supporters don't care how many whoppers he tells and who cares what the rest of us think. I don't get it. All I know is it's bad for America.
But here's the worst part - possibly the worst part. Trump is actually stepping on his own good news. Just this week I went to the White House to celebrate the FIRST STEP Act, which is a criminal justice reform measure that Democrats and Republicans came together to pass in December.
Since then, hundreds of people have been freed from federal prison. Already thousands more going to be coming home soon. And in the middle of the ceremony, Trump went way off script and did something amazing. He handed the mic to formerly incarcerated people whom this new law has set free. No warning, no script, you just let him talk for themselves and they did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TROY POWELL, RELEASED FROM PRISON UNDER FRIST STEP ACT: I never thought - I never thought this bill would pass and I can't thank everybody enough of that.
GREGORY ALLEN, RELEASED FROM PRISON UNDER FRIST STEP ACT: Two months ago I was in a prison there and I'm in the way out.
APRIL JOHNSON, RELEASED FROM PRISON UNDER FRIST STEP ACT: I got compassion release for my daughter. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in September and they since gave her a grave prognosis. And because of the bill and the FIRST STEP Act, I'll be able to at least spend some time with her. Thank you.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, sweet lady. Take care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: Hey, beautiful, right - beautiful. Real lives changed, because politicians came together, including Trump, and got something done. Now to be clear, the positive stuff - it doesn't erase the bad stuff - taking babies from their mother at the border, senseless attacks on transgender people in our military. But some good is happening.
[07:05:00] And if President Trump would stop exhausting our fact checkers every day, we might have more time to share some of that good news with you. Now that might make too much sense, but that's what I think we should be doing.
Now speaking of good sense, my first guest is a no-nonsense Senator who is known for getting good things done even in broken Washington D.C. today. Please welcome to "The Van Jones Show", my friend Senator Amy Klobuchar. Welcome.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you. All right.
JONES: It's so good to see you.
KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. Thanks for wearing that purple for Prince.
JONES: Yes, well--
JONES: Yes, well, thank you Minnesota. Yes - well - and thank you for everything you did for his family after he passed. You've just been an incredibly effective legislator in so many different ways.
You're running for President at a time when a lot of liberals and Democrats think that Trump's going to be easily beaten. But when you look at the economy, if it's the economy stupid, can Democrats win?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, I don't think you should take anything for granted in this election, as we've learned from 2016.
KLOBUCHAR: And when I look at the economy right now, yes it is stable. And because of our great workers in America and our businesses, we've been able to get out of that downturn from over a decade ago.
But it is so hard, as you know, for so many families right now to afford prescription drugs, to be able to afford sending their kid to college. You can go on and on. And so we still don't have the kind of economic justice that we should have in this country and I'm running for President, because I think we shouldn't be governing from chaos every single day.
KLOBUCHAR: We should see this moment in time as a time to seize opportunities to get this stuff done, like do something about climate change, and do something about our workforce training and immigration reform. Things that are just sitting there, and if we don't act, we're not going to keep being able to expand our economy and including more people and shared prosperity. JONES: Well, I love what you talk. You're talking about substantive issues. So let me get your feedback on something. I'm watching the House Democrats. They're saying, look we're subpoena - we have the subpoena to get the Mueller report. We want the tax returns from Donald Trump. We want to know about the security clearances.
All of this focus, on what they call oversight, is it overreach, are they overdoing it? Are they getting in the way of you talking about substantive stuff or is this important too? How do you see it?
KLOBUCHAR: No, there are three branches of government and we're supposed to do our job. That Mueller report, when you look at why we need to know what's in it, 90% of the public want to see it public, why?
We had a foreign country invade our election - right? They tried to hack into our election equipment. They hacked into campaigns e-mails. And I hate when people use that word meddling - that they meddled. That is - my daughter's out there somewhere - there she is --yes.
JONES: Give Abigail a round of applause.
KLOBUCHAR: Yes, yes. There we are. OK. She --
JONES: Got your daughter here.
KLOBUCHAR: She's-- she lives in Brooklyn --
KLOBUCHAR: - and she is 23, and meddling - when people say you meddled - meddling is what I do when I call her on a Saturday night to see what she's doing, OK. That is meddling.
What Russia did was invade our election. And he in that report will be a way for people with the former FBI Director Mueller heading up that investigation for people to figure out why do I care about that, because I want to protect our election in 2020 and pass my bill "The Secure Elections Act".
That is bipartisan with Senator Lankford of Oklahoma to be able to have backup paper ballots in every single state and the Union. That way if they do it again, we'll have a way to prove what happened.
JONES: Do you trust Bill Barr? I mean, Bill Barr - he put forward that four-page summary. He's the Attorney General. Do you trust him?
KLOBUCHAR: I did not support the Attorney General. I didn't vote for him, because I was so concerned. He wrote, a few months before he got named, a memo that was 19 pages.
It was like a job application in which he basically espouses believed to have unlimited power for the President called Executive Power, and that made me really concerned that he was putting in that position that you're supposed to be upholding the laws, not the White House. And so that's what makes me concerned. On the other hand, I am glad that he said he's going to make this report public, and he's going to do it soon. And I just don't want to find out that he's redacted every sentence in the report. So we're going to wait to see what he does.
JONES: Let's talk about the race though. I mean, you're out there you're doing it. Bernie Sanders seems to be the front-runner. Is Bernie Sanders a front-runner in the Democratic primary right now?
[07:10:00] KLOBUCHAR: I think the polls show that. Yes, he's doing well. He's been out there for a while. But I think competition is good for our party.
KLOBUCHAR: I think having a number of people running is great. I am personally excited that we have so many women running. And as I like to say may the best woman win. And I come from a different place. I am literally sitting up here today as the granddaughter of an iron ore miner and the daughter of a teacher and a newspaper man. The first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from the state of Minnesota and a candidate for President. So that is the--
JONES: It's beautiful. And you also represent, I think, a different sensibility politically than does Bernie Sanders. Are you the anti- Bernie in a way? Are you are the moderate white?
JONES: Why aren't you?
KLOBUCHAR: No. I am a proven progressive. I am someone who in the last few years - I think, Donald Trump, he didn't notice it, but he's signed 34 of the bills into law where I was the lead Democrat.
Time and time again, I have taken on major issues, whether it is gun safety and ahead of my time and a bunch of things. And I just get them done. And I think what's really important is that you have someone that is not only a progressive and wants to move our country forward and has people back, but someone who look you in the eye, tell you the truth and get it done. I think that's what the people of America want.
JONES: It sounds like an - that label moderate used to, though, not be something to run from. I mean, I think Obama was proud to call himself a moderate at times. And - I mean is moderate now something that you have to lean away from in the Democratic primary?
KLOBUCHAR: No. I think that people are going to judge people based on what they have done, what their record is, how they want to move our country forward. And I think you don't want to neglect this idea, is that you want to put someone in place that can build those coalition's that can at times work across the aisle and other places, stand your ground to be able to get things done.
And for me in the White House, the first thing I want to do on day one is sign us back into that International Climate Change Agreement. I can do that without going to Congress. I want to get a major infrastructure package, I want to take that Immigration Reform Bill, that's already passed the Senate, push that forward and get it done.
JONES: Let me just ask about one more potential front-runner, which is Joe Biden. There's this whole concern about him maybe being too touchy-feely. How seriously should we take that? Like how do you evaluate this new concern about Joe Biden?
KLOBUCHAR: I think he has addressed that. He clearly put out a video and he explained that he understood that he had done something that some - it's people - women who have legitimately come forward and said I felt this wasn't appropriate, and he addressed it. I'm sure he'll continue to address it.
But I think going beyond that when you think of these issues in our country, we have come a long way. I was actually the chief author of changing the rules for the Senate when it comes to sexual harassment. They had these crazy things in place where there's waiting periods, designed not to help victims, but to help politicians.
And this is not just famous people - right? It's about the nurse in the hospital or the worker on the frontline in the factory and that's what we have to remember.
JONES: So I mean, substantive as usual, but you feel that he's addressed it sufficiently at this point?
KLOBUCHAR: I think he has addressed it. I think people will continue to ask questions about it and that's what our democracy is about. I really hated the President, messed around with it and put something out, making front of the Vice President. I think it was just undignified what the President did.
And I have always had a very good relationship with Vice President Biden, and of course, I welcome him to the race - if he gets in.
JONES: If he gets in. Well, we got so much to talk about. Coming up Senator Klobuchar has some new ideas about criminal justice reform, something I'm very interested in, as we all know, we're going to talk about that and much more when we get back.
[07:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
JONES: Welcome back to "Van Jones Show". My guest is Democratic Senator and 2020 Presidential Candidate, Senator Amy Klobuchar. Look, let's talk issues.
JONES: I know you love talking issues. I want to talk issues. Health care, why are you not for Medicare-for-All? It seems like everybody's is for Medicare-for-All and you say I'm for Medicare for not all.
KLOBUCHAR: Oh, get out of here. No, I'm for universal health care, which means everyone should have a right to health care. It's not a privilege. It should be a right. I want to get there more quickly. So I would make sure first of all that we do something that President Obama wanted to do from the beginning. And this is basically taking the Affordable Care Act, leaving it in place, but building on it, because it was a beginning not an end. And that means making sure we have an affordable public option that everyone will have access to. And that you could do it with Medicare or you could do with Medicaid.
I would also do something about pharma prices, which is now nearly, when you include hospital pharma, nearly 20 percent of your healthcare costs, why? Because the pharmaceutical companies think they own Washington. They don't own me.
KLOBUCHAR: And I believe you can bring in less expensive drugs from Canada, that's a bipartisan bill I have a Senator Grassley of Iowa. And by the way we can see Canada from our porch. I see those less expensive drugs and that creates competition and pushes the drug companies.
Medicare negotiation, maybe some of the younger people - they are like, well, why do I care about that? Well, if you can bring down the drug prices for 43 million seniors, imagine the effect it's going to have on drug prices for everyone.
JONES: Everybody else. Is your concern about Medicare for all? Is it mainly political that you think it's just not popular enough with Republicans or is it principled? You think that the private insurance companies should play a good role?
KLOBUCHAR: Right. So I see it as something that we could do in the future, but I think the best transition to it is to look first at having one of these public options, which is exactly what we were trying to do at the beginning with the Affordable Care Act.
So it's not political for me. It is what is the best way to get there in the soonest way. That we look at that affordable care - there's some things we could do literally the day one when I'm President. We could give this reinsurance and cost-sharing in, which would help bring down premiums. And then you move to the public option.
JONES: What's the best thing about Obamacare and what's the thing you want to fix the most about Obamacare?
[07:20:00] KLOBUCHAR: I think the best thing about Obamacare was that people are no longer kicked off of their insurance for pre-existing conditions. And now this administration has said, they want to do that again, it's unbelievable.
So no one is going to allow this administration to do this. But that's one of the best things because that affects everyone, not just the people, but bias - so if you have private insurance that protection still protects you.
The things that I'd most like to change right now is pharmaceutical prices. Nothing got done on that front. Nothing has gotten done through a number of Presidents. So for me as President, I will get it done.
JONES: Get it done. Awesome.
JONES: Let's talk about criminal justice reform. You were a big part of the FIRST STEP Act, and you now say we need a second step. What more should be done on criminal justice?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, as you know - and Van you were so involved in this - such a leader, and we had to work across the aisle to get that done.
KLOBUCHAR: I'm former prosecutor and so I thought it was important to have those voices in the mix. And what we did was a tremendous thing. But it is just the beginning, that's why we called it the FIRST STEP Act.
90% of people who are incarcerated are in state and local jails and prisons across this country. So now we have to create incentives for states to do basically the same thing that the federal government just did with federal sentencing. We have to make this cool. And sometimes making it cool, means creative and financial incentives, so that's one thing.
And then second thing I would do is just other changes that we need to see in the criminal justice system. I put out this week my proposal on clemency, that's something you can do right in the White House to have a criminal justice reform person in the White House full-time--
JONES: Why is that something - I think people don't even think about the fact that the President does have the opportunity in the right to look at some of these outrageous sentences and just do something about it. Talk about clemency and why that's so important.
KLOBUCHAR: So clemency gives a President or in states a Governor - right - the ability to look at cases that maybe were seemed at the time were where people were and then they look back and this is egregious.
So what I propose to do is have a clemency board that would advise me as President with people with diverse views from different parts of our country that would give me advice, in addition to the words you hear from the Justice Department. That's important.
They are prosecutors. You want to hear them on the federal cases. But I think you need something more.
JONES: This sounds good.
KLOBUCHAR: And that's the clemency board.
JONES: This clemency board, it sounds very, very wonky. But I'm going to tell you, if you have - it sounds wonky, but it could be a game changer, because you have so many people who are in the federal system, now when we look, why did you give somebody 30 years, 40 years, 50 years for a nonviolent offense, and that could make a big difference.
However, you as a former prosecutor in the past, you were seen more as a tough prosecutor and so how do you reconcile your earlier views where you were kind of tough on vandalism, tough on truancy, tough on people who were - had marijuana offenses. That was a different kind of Klobuchar than one I'm hearing now or am I wrong?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, Minnesota tends to have - we have racial disparity issues like every other jurisdiction and I worked hard on those in terms of doing some new reforms with the Innocence Project to make sure we did eyewitness ID differently.
I did a lot when it came to making sure that other states heard our story, that we taped interrogations to protect rights. And then I diversified our office. But let's face it. There is racism in our criminal justice system. There was back then and there is now and so we can always do more and we can always do better.
And so for me when I was there, one of my top ways to get at that I was with drug court, right. This simple idea that people should be allowed not just second chances, they should be given the tools and the opportunities that people - that have money can afford if they go to treatment. And I think that is really helpful.
JONES: Yes. It's good stuff.
KLOBUCHAR: And our state was actually out front on that.
JONES: But when you look back at the kind of broken windows theory at the time of saying, be tough on these minor offenses. That has some unintended consequences--
KLOBUCHAR: It does.
JONES: - where a lot of times wound up with criminal records that maybe shouldn't happen. Do you have regrets now when you look back on those days or how do you look at those days?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, I look at it at a different time and I would do things differently now especially when it came to the use of the grand jury and things like that in certain cases. But the problem was back then, if you walk into my shoes at that time, we had just come off this high crime moment, and we still had cases of kids getting shot on porches.
So the first thing the African-American community asked me for was the resources that we would actually prosecute the people that that committed these heinous crimes. We did. And there was no complaints about those sentences, I will say.
Those were people that shot little Byron Phillips when he was just sitting out on his porch or Taisha Edwards doing her homework at the kitchen table and gangsters shoot through the window and she dies. So those were the cases that we handled. [07:25:00] But for certainly those low-level offenses, I think we can do so much better. I see us not as a business. You want to efficient. But a business - what does the business want? repeat customers. We don't want repeat customers in the criminal justice system.
KLOBUCHAR: We want to get people to mental health treatment or get them the - get them the chemical dependency treatment that's going to keep them out of the system, and that is what I think we need to do all over --
JONES: All right. Coming up, guys so much more to talk about, we're going to get into that famous exchange with justice Brett Kavanaugh that happened during the confirmation hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KLOBUCHAR: Is that your answer?
BRETT KAVANAUGH, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT OF THE United States: Yes, and I'm curious if you have.
KLOBUCHAR: I have no drinking problem judge.
KAVANAUGH: Yes, nor do I.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: What was he really thinking about at that moment, you're going to find out when we get back.
JONES: Welcome back to "Van Jones Show". I'm here with Senator Amy Klobuchar. Look I was riveted during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. In case somebody was under a rock and missed it. I want to show this famous clip and then I want - you want you to respond to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[07:30:00] KLOBUCHAR: You're saying there's never been a case where you drank so much that you didn't remember what happened the night before or part of what happened?
KAVANAUGH: You're asking about - yes, blackout, I don't know. Have you?
KLOBUCHAR: Could you answer the question, judge and just - so you - that's not happened, is that your answer?
KAVANAUGH: Yes, and I'm curious if you have.
KLOBUCHAR: I have no drinking problem, judge.
KAVANAUGH: Yes, nor do I. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KLOBUCHAR: I really felt that my job was to get to the truth and I was asking him that question, because I was trying to think what Dr. Blasey Ford had said in the morning with his story.
And I was simply saying, "Well, maybe you blacked out" and I was very surprised he did that. But my decision was not to go back at him and act like him. I decided for the integrity of our country and our justice system, the integrity of the Senate. I was just going to do my job. And I also wasn't going to go down there with him.
I later talked about my dad and the drinking problem that my dad had struggled with his whole life, and I said, "I'm not going down there with you. I'm going to stay up here".
JONES: Well, I think it was an extraordinary moment. He actually wound up apologizing to you. But let's talk about your dad. Your dad had a tough drinking problem. How did that impact you? Because you're - you really are sort of this strong straight shooter. Did having it deal with your dad strengthened you in that way?
KLOBUCHAR: Yes. And I love my dad. I'm going to see him this weekend actually. He's 90 years old. And he is not drinking, as he says it's hard to get it at the assisted-living to get out alcohol. He is still going to AA at age 90.
And I think for me growing up he struggled with this. I literally saw my dad climb the highest mountains, but sink to the lowest valleys, because of his battle with alcoholism. And so in his words, he had three DWIs basically. And by the third one was - which was just a few months before my husband and I got married, the laws were different, and he was actually facing jail time.
And then that made him go to treatment. And then in his words he was pursued by grace and his faith and the treatment and the people that stood up for him. That made the difference. And it has motivated me to say everyone should be moved to be pursued by grace, whether you get addicted to meth, whether it's opioids, whether it's alcohol, whether you have a mental health problem.
It shouldn't just be my dad and that has gotten me to push hard for drug courts and funding for treatment and seeing that as this redemption in a way that until you experience in your whole life it's hard to understand. And everyone has that right to be pursued by grace.
JONES: A lot of families have kind of pain in the past and you have reconciled in a very beautiful and obvious way. What advice do you have to people who may have a break in the relationship with a parent? I mean how do you find the little way back? The redemption happens in your heart as well in some ways.
KLOBUCHAR: Yes, that's a good point, because my parents got divorced as well during all of this drinking time, when I was 15-16 that age, and it was hard. Because I actually heard - it was on Thanksgiving and my dad asked my mom for divorce and I was in the other room and they didn't know it.
And I heard the whole thing and I ran out and went to my friend's house through a snow. I'm like, I guess, I'm always in snow. But I ran out and he chased after me to get. And the next morning I went home and I still remember my mom was shovelling the driveway by herself, kind of making this new life.
And what I saw, though, with my family, despite my dad's drinking issues, he still loved my mom and he loved me and my sister and he made sure he was still in our life. So that would be my #1 advice is that if there is a way to at least reconcile and stay friends for the kids.
When my mom died how my dad was the first one there, because I was in Washington and they maintained a friendship that was real. And he also I was there for me and I remember these awkward dad-daughter pizza dinners that we would have of like, "Oh, no". And he be like, "How do you like your teacher?" after they gotten divorced.
And so then we finally decided we would just go bike riding, because then we didn't have to talk as much, frankly, and it's something that I always cherish and it was something he gave to me.
JONES: You found (ph) that?
JONES: All right. Speaking of parenting, your daughter, Abigail, is here. I can see your influence on her and that she's also a Yalie. Like you, went to Yale. She's involved in politics, working for the - I think, in New York City a council person, and she's also funny.
[07:35:00] KLOBUCHAR: Yes. She won this stand-up comedy contest in the college, yes.
JONES: Exactly. So I see the you're funny, you are in politics, you went to Yale, I see your influence on her. How does she influence you? What have you learned from her and from being her mom?
KLOBUCHAR: Well, first of all, she's the best daughter, so that's pretty nice.
KLOBUCHAR: And she's been willing to tolerate these campaigns and wants to go around with me, which is great. And then, the thing I really learned from her was when she was born and she couldn't swallow, she was really sick.
And back then, the insurance companies kicked you off your insurance and out of the hospital, basically. And so she was in there in intensive care and I got kicked out in 24 hours. And then as she got better and better, I was - went just like a mom basically, not in public office and got one of the first laws passed in the country guaranteeing new moms and their babies a 48 hospital stay. And - but what she did when she didn't even know she was doing it, was it's incredible strength. She was fed through tubes for her first year and a half--
JONES: Oh, my god.
KLOBUCHAR: And now she's this amazing girl. She also gave me this gift, because now I do understand what other parents when they have kids with disabilities that were much more serious and long-standing then what happened to Abigail. It is a gift, because you understand what they're going through. So I love my daughter and I love her incredible persistence in life.
JONES: That's beautiful. Amy Klobuchar you are a gift. You are a gift to this country and I'm so proud to know you and I'm so proud that run for President of United States. Good luck with your race in your campaign.
When we get back Empire star, Taraji P. Henson is here. She's going to talk about her newest project and while she's speaking out about mental health and a number of issues, when we get back
[07:40:00] JONES: Welcome back to "Van Jones Show" My guest is an award winning actress and activists. She's had memorable roles in movies like Hustle & Flow, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Hidden Figures. You love her as "Cookie" from the hit TV show Empire. She's now starring in a new film called "The Best of Enemies". Welcome to the "Van Jones Show" Taraji P. Henson.
This is a dream coach who for Van Jones. I've been watching. So first of all, I'm so glad to have you here.
TARAJI P. HENSON, AMERICAN ACTRESS: Thank you.
JONES: People look at you as a miracle. Somebody who in Hollywood - they say, listen if once you turn 30 you're through. Even if you've been a star, you can't get a role. You are in your late 40s and you are just ascending and ascending and ascending. What should people at home take as a lesson from Taraji?
HENSON: Just to never give up and find a bigger picture because there's always going to be roadblocks and obstacles. But if you have a bigger picture to focus on, when those roadblocks and obstacles come, you can divert your attention back to where you're headed.
JONES: Well, what was your bigger picture?
HENSON: I just knew I was - I wanted to green-light movies. I want it to be a black actress that could put a name on a script and it'll get green lit.
JONES: Wow. You did. Well, you did now.
HENSON: And open films of course. JONES: And open films, yes. I mean it's just - it's such an amazing and inspiring thing and also to be able to do that being a single mom. What did you rely on? How did you find it in yourself to be able to pull this off?
HENSON: I had this little hungry eyes where my son looking up at me and I knew I couldn't - I knew I couldn't give up, because if I quit, then what about teaching. If I didn't make my dreams come true then how I'm going to teach him how to make his come true.
JONES: I would think - maybe I'm wrong. But after Black Panther and Get Out and your success, and Crazy Rich Asians, it must be super easy now to be black in Hollywood. They're just throwing scripts at you, right?
HENSON: Yes. Well, I mean, I've never had an issue with not working --
JONES: That's true.
HENSON: - that's never been my story. But it's beautiful to see so many of my friend - everybody's working - everybody's working, and that's a good feeling. But that's kind of - that's kind of a story for African-Americans in Hollywood. They never see the value until we prove it. And then it's like, "Oh, we make money off of that". It's like, "Yes, you didn't know?"
JONES: And what about the pay part, though, I know that's also been an issue.
HENSON: That's the one thing I still fight for --
JONES: Say more about that.
HENSON: - to this day. Yes. It's almost like they want a discount - they want a great performance for a discount. And it's like, "I'm sorry you can't have that".
JONES: It's right.
HENSON: And if you feel like you can get the performance you would get from me for that amount, go on, good luck. Not to say that I'm the only one. But you just can't play me like that.
JONES: That's right.
HENSON: I've worked too hard. Worked too hard.
JONES: Yes, yes.
HENSON: And I deserve it. And it's not like I'm asking for crazy amounts - astronomical amounts. They are within reason and it's what I believe I deserve at this moment in my career, like, I've worked my ass off to get here.
JONES: Yes, you have.
HENSON: And I have mastered incredible audience.
JONES: I mean it's unbelievable. One of the things I think is so extraordinary about you as well is that you're using your platform for good. The mental health, piece, you've been so courageous in speaking out about that.
When I first started going to therapy, I mean, I resisted it so much because it's just not as common in the black community. I don't think people understand. It's very unusual - at least 10 years ago in the black community to say I'm going to therapy.
Why was it so important for you to break that taboo? You have a whole foundation that's about that. Talk to us about the importance of mental health for African-Americans, for everybody.
HENSON: Well, importantly for African-Americans, because we are suffering still from generations of trauma since slavery and we haven't dealt with it. America still doesn't own up to it you know, so that's traumatizing. It's trauma that's been passed down from generation to generation.
[07:45:00] And in the midst of that trauma, we're not allowed to talk about mental issues, because it's taboo. We have so much stacked up against us that we can't look weak. And so we don't talk about it. Our kids don't even know that that's a field to even study, that's why we don't have enough therapist or psychiatrists in the field that are culturally competent.
You don't have to black, you just have to culturally competent. And everything is not solved with a pill.
JONES: That's right.
HENSON: You know, so it's unfortunate the more I get into this, because I've launched my foundation as The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation named after my father who had his own mental issues after coming back from serving in Vietnam.
I just felt like somebody needed to say something we need to lift this carpet up and deal with this dirt.
JONES: Yes, yes.
HENSON: And it's about time and I felt like out of necessity, because when it was time to look for someone for me to talk to him, for my son to talk to, it was near to impossible. We started crunching the numbers and like only 7% of all diplomas or degrees handed out in that field are given to African-Americans.
It's a lot of issues we have to tackle, but I just think I'm happy that since I've come forward I'm seeing a lot of people - a lot more people talk about it.
HENSON: And we got to start talking about it. JONES: Well I think it's really, really important I think that - you talked about the PTSD from your dad--
HENSON: Yes, just watching the news.
HENSON: - because he - you never go to war and come back the same, that's PTSD. But even civilians are dealing with PTSD by just turning on the news.
HENSON: You turn on the news, you walk away, your anxiety is heightened, and that's what we're living in this time and we can't keep sweeping that under the carpet. That's why suicide rates are high.
And the suicide rate among African-American children between the ages of 5 and 12 is astronomical. It breaks my heart.
JONES: Not even talked about, though. Yes.
HENSON: It breaks my heart and we don't even talk about it. It's a huge issue.
JONES: Yes. I feel like for me this whole question around wellness it's something that is not even almost allowed in the black community. It's like just again just be on your grind, be on you--
HENSON: Go pray.
JONES: - or go pray. Yes,
JONES: - which - I'm also praying, but praying sometimes is not going to be enough by itself.
HENSON: Well, the thing about praying is, you got to pray, but you got to do the work as well. He's not just going to pray and he going to say "Bing".
HENSON: Prayer does work, but also footwork helps the prayer.
JONES: That's good. Well, I know that there's been a lot of stress and drama around the Empire family, how are y'all doing? Are you guys holding up?
HENSON: We're on vacation right.
HENSON: We're on vacation. I'm literally on a plane tomorrow to a private island. I will be off the grid for seven days.
JONES: Oh, that's good. Hey, listen that's beautiful.
HENSON: Taraji is once again playing a powerful woman in her latest film. This time a civil rights legend who actually worked alongside a KKK dude for a change, OK, you heard that right - civil rights, KKK. And the message behind their story, why it's so important, all that when we get back.
[07:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now we have been sitting here over half an hour and the counsel man here ain't done nothing but --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: - Ann-- Ann, the government give you your chance to speak tomorrow night, are we good now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: That's cut from "The Best of Enemies", it's a true film. It's based on the life of a civil rights legend Ann Atwater. She fought against segregation and poverty in North Carolina. We are back with the star of that movie Taraji P. Henson, and also joined by Ann Atwater's granddaughter Ann-Nakia Green in the house. Why it was it so important for you to do this film now?
HENSON: After the 2016 elections, that's - he's saying that. I was very concerned about where the country was headed and the racial climate. And I just felt like this story is just a reminder of how hate is taught and just like it's taught it can be unlearned, and we need that message and we need it now.
The universe is clever and the universe orders up what it wants, when it needs it. And that's why this film is coming out now. We didn't plan it to come out now.
JONES: It sure it needs, it come out now.
HENSON: Right now.
JONES: Well, what did your grandmother teach you about this relationship that she had? She - this was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, she's a civil rights leader, and she somehow was able to turn his heart and get him to be on her side, that's nuts. What did your grandmother teach you about that whole relationship and tell you about it?
ANN-NAKIA GREEN, GRANDDAUGHTER OF CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST ANN ATWATER: She had to change her own heart first. She hated him. And how could she say that she was a Christian and love her neighbor when she really didn't. So she had to change herself inwardly before she could impact him on that level. JONES: Well, how she do that?
NAKIA GREEN: Well, connection. Everybody wants to be respected, everybody wants to be loved, accepted and that's our connection.
JONES: Yes. How does it feel for you to see your grandmother being portrayed by one of the biggest stars in the world?
NAKIA GREEN: Amazing. Amazing.
JONES: Yes, that's good. Why do you care so much about bringing people together and getting rid of all this hatred?
HENSON: Because I know God. And I'm not a religious person, but I'm very spiritual and I know God. And I know if God wants it - the Almighty God wants you one race to exist, there would be only one race.
If God - the Almighty God only wanted one gender to exist, believe me, only one gender would exist, but it's not designed that way. It's designed in a very clever way. We all look of difference. We all come from different backgrounds and we're on the same playground. And we have to figure out how to get along. And no human is better than any other human, certainly not because of the color of your skin. That is the most ignorant way of thinking.
JONES: I want everybody to go out and see this film. It's an extraordinary film it's, called "The Best of Enemies". It's in theaters now. But before you go do that, before and I go, I want to acknowledge that rapper Nipsey Hussle was gunned down in Los Angeles this week.
[07:55:00] I don't even have words to this tragedy. We were both represented by a Roc Nation. He was an extraordinary young brother, doing everything you would want to start to do. He's creating businesses, he was hiring community folks, promoting pride, entrepreneurship. He was doing good by the hood. He was even planning a summit to promote peace in the streets. He was gunned down over some nonsense allegedly by a one-time friend.
Even though this was not gang-related, this time, all too often it is Bloods vs. Crips, Blue Bandanas vs. Red Bandanas. Both sides have their reasons and some of them are legitimate. But these blue versus red fights escalate to the point of community self-destruction and we all say it's got end.
But who today has the authority to tell anybody to stop the madness, because even among the elites it's the same thing - blue versus red - Blue Democrats versus Red Republican.
HENSON: You better saying--
JONES: Using their weapons to kill each other off as best they can with more sophisticated means and methods. So both sides got their reasons for their righteousness. But if they keep going we're going to have national self-destruction. Keep that in mind. Peace and prayers to Nipsey's family, but let's not point fingers at the hood, what's wrong with those people. What's wrong with all of us?
JONES: And what are we doing to each other, America? I'm Van Jones thank you for watching. Peace and love for one another.