Full Transcript: Morning Joe Exclusive with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder
In an exclusive interview today on “Morning Joe,” Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI) discussed the Flint water crisis and said he hasn’t stepped down because his view is to “take responsibility” and not “walk away.” “So my answer is instead of walking away from it, you solve it,” Snyder said. “So that's where I'm really focusing on solutions.”
On his remarks yesterday afternoon ahead of President Obama’s speech on the city’s water crisis, Snyder said, “It is a process. And so, I appreciate people being angry and frustrated by the situation. It's a difficult one.”
“Actually, I want to compliment the president,” he added. “I think it was very helpful having him come to Flint and reinforce a very similar message in the fact that filtered water is now safe to drink for most people.”
Snyder appeared on “Morning Joe” on Jan. 22 for his first live national interview on the Flint water crisis.
Video and rush transcript from Snyder’s appearance on “Morning Joe” today are below. Mandatory credit for MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
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BRZEZINSKI: OK. Joining us now from Ann Arbor, Michigan, the state's Republican Governor Rick Snyder.
Very good to have you on board with us this morning, sir.
SNYDER: It's great to be back with you again.
BRZEZINSKI: So, quite a day yesterday. Not a very good reception that you got, but you did face the people of Flint, along with the president.
I'd like to ask, though, because you and President Obama were drinking the water. You were drinking the filtered water. And my understanding is that water, it is a huge process for a person who lives in Flint to make the water drinkable or usable. So it doesn't really seem like such a celebratory act to be drinking the water in Flint.
SNYDER: Well, actually, doing the filters is much more straightforward than drinking bottled water, because we have a problem still with the water system in Flint.
And in terms of alternatives, there's bottled water and filtered water. And the filters that work on a faucet today work very effectively, and they work well.
So, what we're really trying to encourage people is, this is a way to improve the quality of their life, is they can move away from bottled water. It has been found that it's safe to use the filtered water for everyone but small children and pregnant woman largely. And it would be a step forward in terms of the healing process to get Flint back on a well-established water system.
SCARBOROUGH: So -- so, Governor, you went there yesterday. Obviously, you knew the reception was going to be harsh. It was. How do you turn the corner?
How does the government turn the corner to get the people of Flint, Michigan, believing in you and your government again?
SNYDER: Yeah, well, it is a process. And so, I appreciate people being angry and frustrated by the situation. It's a difficult one.
Actually, I want to compliment the president. I think it was very helpful having him come to Flint and reinforce a very similar message in the fact that filtered water is now safe to drink for most people. That there's a program to flush the pipes that we need the citizens to participate in that. That we're making process with respect to removing lead service lines to get the dangerous pipes out of the ground, and this will be a process that will take time.
In addition, he made a strong message that it is really important that children can have a bright future still. That we're putting in place a number of medical and educational programs to make sure that if children were affected by the lead at all, there's mitigation ways, steps to be taken, so these kids can have a bright future.
GLAUDE: So, Governor, could you just -- thank you for being on the show. But can you just explain to me why it took so long to acknowledge that lead was in the pipes? That lead was in the water?
What took so long from the discovery of the fact to the acknowledgment of the fact?
SNYDER: Oh, that was one of the main issues. That was one of the failures of government, including state government, that basically we had experts at the state still saying it wasn't a problem.
And it really took outside experts, such as Professor Marc Edwards at Virginia Tech. He did a great job of identifying the issue, in fact, he's one of the key resources I look to now for good advice.
We made a lot of changes within state government, and we needed to. So, this is one of those experiences -- a tragic situation that you wish never would have happened. And now the real question is, is let's fix it.
So, that's where it has been a focus. And again, having the president come to town was a positive step in my view, because it shows that we need the city, we need the county, we need the state and we need the federal government all agreeing that, let's not spend time on the historical questions, but let's solve this problem by working together.
That's the way government should work.
GLAUDE: Right, OK. So, government. What about your -- what about your culpability? What role did you play?
SNYDER: Well, again, lots of investigations. But I got up in front of the entire state and in front of the people of Flint to say there are people that work for me that didn't use common sense. That there's investigations still going on. And if someone is working for you, you should take responsibility for that, and I have.
And I've put a focus in on fixing the problem.
SCARBOROUGH: Willie Geist?
GEIST: Governor, the EPA received the first complaints two years ago in 2014. There were families saying that their children were sick, that they couldn't drink the water, they couldn't bathe in the water. Between your office and the EPA, what happened to those complaints two years ago and why weren't they addressed immediately if people were sick in one of your major cities?
SNYDER: Well that is one of the issues that we're going through. Again, when you say people are sick, again, it wasn't in terms of sickness, per se. It was in terms of -- the lead is the key issue here. And that took some time to come out. And again, that's where the government was too slow in identifying it, particularly state government.
SCARBOROUGH: But -- we -- we talked about the state government and you focused on the state government here. But again, the Environmental Protection Agency had information, the federal government, that there was lead in the water and they suppressed those findings. Why?
SNYDER: Well, I'm not going to answer questions for the EPA. I mean, the way I view it today is -- is I'm not in a position and I don't want to be in that position of saying my goal is not to go criticize somebody else about the past. My goal is to say how do we solve the problem for the people of Flint moving forward. And that's about all of us working together.
Because there are multiple investigations that have happened and are happening to look at the past. And I'm cooperating with all of those. I hope everyone is. Because let's get to the bottom of that. But at the same time, the important thing is is how do we get better water supplies, how do we help the people of Flint. And the filtered water is a positive step forward. The next step is hopefully get it so it can come right out of the tap, like it should.
BRZEZINSKI: Yeah. I don't think -- I mean, it's a tough step forward. You can't bathe in it, it's...
SNYDER: You can bathe in it.
BRZEZINSKI: You can bathe in filtered water, you can have filters in all your taps, you can bring bottled water in...
SNYDER: No -- Mika, that's one of the things. The scientific evidence so far says you can use the regular water for bathing.
BRZEZINSKI: OK. Well then you should -- there are some who think that you should do that. Let me just say -- let me just ask, given that this is a catastrophe that some say rivals Katrina, why haven't you stepped down?
SNYDER: Well, again, if you have people working for you that let you down, that there are multiple failures, again, my view is is you don't walk away from things like that. You should take responsibility, and I have, and the value system I was raised on, or you want to fix it as much or more than anyone. So my answer is instead of walking away from it, you solve it. So that's where I'm really focusing on solutions.
SCARBOROUGH: When you and the president met before your speech yesterday, what did you talk about with him?
SNYDER: Well, actually, we met with the mayor also and we had a good discussion about how we all need to work together. In particular, was the state finding adequate resources to do that. We've made a huge commitment from the budget. We're putting a lot of resources on the ground. We're committed to doing things. The city and the mayor are working hard to do it. And how we all need to do this hand in hand. And that's -- a good part of the discussion yesterday and it was a very constructive discussion. So again, I appreciate his visit to Flint.
GEIST: Governor, most of the people affected of in Flint were poor people, people who don't have a voice politically, people who probably don't have any friends at the government level or who are CEOs. Do you think it's fair to say that if this had happened in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, that a CEO that you probably know from a cocktail party made a call to you in 2014, this would have been fixed much quicker?
SNYDER: Well, again, people are going to have different opinions on that. What I would say is...
GEIST: What's your opinion, sir?
SNYDER: I think I've got a track record of working hard to help our urban areas. Look at Detroit, for example. We've been able to show a massive turn around in Detroit. And that took a lot of tough decisions during a difficult time...
GEIST: But what about Flint, Michigan?
SNYDER: Well again, Flint, we actually have been doing a lot of good things in Flint. This is a tragic situation that we need to address and we're on top of it in terms of moving forward. And it's going to take some time to heal, though, because of, again, the trust issue.
SCARBOROUGH: How long -- let me ask as far as the water goes. How long until you think it will be back to normal in Flint, will people be able to turn on their faucets and drink water out of the faucets?
SNYDER: Well I get asked that question all the time and the answer has to be, one -- it's not about picking a date on the calendar and it's not about political people picking the date. It needs to be based on good science, on the experts.
And the good part is we're bringing in outside experts to help reinforce the credibility issue from Virginia Tech and other places. And that was the point of actually having -- I appreciate the president drinking the filtered water to help reinforce that message that he's got experts that are telling people it's safe to drink and let's show people that.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Governor Rick Snyder, thank you so much for being with us. We greatly appreciate it.
BRZEZINSKI: Thank you.
SNYDER: Thank you.