MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow went 25 minutes without a commercial break at the start of her Thursday show. The unusual editorial decision allowed the host to explain the four decades-long saga of white leaders in Waller County, Texas attempting to deny voting rights to students attending the historically black university, Prairie View A&M.
Maddow spent over 10 minutes just providing the historical context for Wednesday’s arrest of Jacob Aronowitz, the field director for Democratic U.S. House candidate Mike Siegel’s campaign.
“The guy’s out now, but here’s like the — sort of like the favorite little grace note for me in this whole story,” Maddow said. “After they arrested the congressional candidate’s field director — reportedly after confirming with him that he worked for a Democratic campaign specifically — after they arrested him and they held him and then they finally let him out, even after they finally let him out, they kept his phone.”
“He is the field director for the Democratic congressional candidate in that district, and the election is less than a month away — now local law enforcement has confiscated his phone,” Maddow noted. “For the crime of handing over a letter trying to make sure that local students at the local black college can vote this time.”
“Happy 2018, I know it feels like your TV set should be in black and white as I’m telling this story, but no, this is us now,” she worried.
“I have been advised that you have been awake for well over 24 hours, and that you’re in a little bit of physical distress at this point, because of what you have been through,” Maddow told Aronowitz, while thanking him for the interview.
To discuss the scandal, she brought on Mike Siegel, the Democratic Party nominee challenging Rep. Mike McCaul, Sr. in the state’s 10th congressional district, and his field director Jacob Aronowitz.
Aronowitz said Maddow’s “recounting of the events was accurate.”
“I was arrested and held at the Waller County Sheriff’s jail, and the phone was taken, it was confiscated,” he recounted. “And at the time of its confiscation, they said they were going to seek a warrant to go through its contents and that didn’t happen, and I did get the phone back earlier today.”
“The experience was harrowing and it made me reflect on what people in that county deal with on a day-to-day, year-to-year basis,” he explained.
Maddow drilled down on one particular point in the scandal in particular.
“Jacob, there has been reporting that before you were arrested, you were specifically asked whether the candidate — or what party the candidate was — whose campaign you were working for,” Maddow noted. “I think that struck a lot of people around the country as a sort of a shocking part of this, that you were asked what party Mr. Siegel was, before you were arrested. Is that true?”
“Yeah, that’s accurate,” he replied.
“And Mr. Siegel — Mike — was on the phone on speakerphone, and he heard the question asked as well,” he continued. “And honestly, that might have been one of the most chilling parts of the entire encounter, because there’s like — I mean, it’s pretty clear where someone’s coming from when they ask you a question like that.”