OTR Interviews

Fear, Loathing and Death Threats in Wisconsin

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 10, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: Well, it is downright ugly in Wisconsin! At this hour, state Republicans are getting death threats! The state capitol -- well, it's on lockdown, thousands of protesters pounding on the doors, but access is denied. Protesters were dragged away by police.

Protesters are furious that a bill stripping public workers of collective bargaining rights is moving forward in Wisconsin. It is now on the governor's desk without a single Democratic vote. Unions across the nation -- well, they're all fired up, mounting a major counterattack against Republicans in 2012. When they first heard the news last night, things immediately got out of control. Chants of "Let us in" shook the capitol.

Governor Walker says he will sign the bill into law as fast as he can, but that doesn't mean it's game over for the unions. They could stage some sort of job action.

What does this mean? Wisconsin State Speaker of the House Jeff Fitzgerald joins us on the phone. Good evening, sir. And I can tell things got pretty rough today. I even know that the minority leader at one point yelled in the state assembly about you, "Your speaker is impaired," and even took out a bullhorn and started yelling. Things got pretty tough there today.

WISCONSIN HOUSE SPEAKER JEFF FITZGERALD (Via Telephone): Yes, Greta, some interesting times at the state capitol in Madison. But you know, We took a vote today to put this state back on the right track, and that's what we did today in the state assembly.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, what is the level of vitriol? Because it was also reported that members of the -- the Democratic members of the assembly were pounding on the door, demanding to be let into the assembly. Apparently, they were locked out because protesters were trying to get in and the police were locking them out. But so what -- how -- how fierce is it tonight?

FITZGERALD: It was pretty difficult today. And the problem, Greta, was, is that we were trying to secure the building so we could get legislators in to take a vote. You know, last night, when we did the conference committee and the senate passed the bill, it was very difficult for myself and the majority leader, my brother, to even get out of the building to a safe place. So you know, within an hour of that last night, they probably had anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 students storm the capitol building, break open doors and force their way into the building. So it's been very, very difficult and high-charged times here in Madison.

VAN SUSTEREN: The governor says he's going to sign this fast as he can, but he hasn't signed the bill yet, and you passed it several hours ago. So what's the hold-up?

FITZGERALD: Well, first it has to go to the LRB, and then they have to put it together. And then it can go to the governor for his signature. So it's kind of part of the normal process, and I'm sure he'll probably sign it tomorrow.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is the LRB?

FITZGERALD: The Legislative Reference Bureau that has to, after we pass the bill, go through it, put it all into the correct form, and then it goes to the governor's desk for him to sign it into law.

VAN SUSTEREN: I take it everybody has now left the building. All the -- at least, certainly, the Republicans have left the building. Are the protesters out?

FITZGERALD: I'm not any longer in Madison, Greta. I'm at home in my district right now. We had a plan. After the vote, we were escorted out of the building by police officials, taken in vans to a safe place and all of us were out of there. So I'm no longer there, so...

VAN SUSTEREN: Can you describe the level of threats? I have been reading that there have been death threats. But give me some idea of what the Republicans are going through.

FITZGERALD: Yes, there's been threats on the Republican senators, Republican assembly folks, and I even think some threats on Democrats, as well. So I think it's all over the place. But yes, some very specific death threats, spelling out how to kill elected officials, very scary stuff. And unfortunately, there's some people out there that have a real problem. And it's very scary stuff, and you know, that's why I took a vote today on the floor. There wasn't a lot of debate because I was really concerned for the safety of my members.

VAN SUSTEREN: How many Republicans defected and voted with the Democrats today in the assembly?

FITZGERALD: There were four Republicans that voted, which had voted two weeks ago, as well, on the first bill that those same four voted again today, did not vote with the Republicans.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now, the collective bargaining aspect has been stripped away from the "budget repair" bill, and that's what was voted on first last night in the senate and then today in the assembly. It's now headed to the governor for signature. But why wasn't this done earlier? This could have been done on February 17th, when the 14 Democratic senators hit the road.

FITZGERALD: Yes, Greta, you know, we're really trying to solve the current budget deficit, and you know, the financing part is really part of that bill. And we're -- you know, we could have refinanced and got $165 million on that refi to take care of the debt that we are in the current budget. But because Democrats would not come back to the chamber, those 14 missing senate Democrats, it really forced our hands. And we thought that, you know, after three separate attempts to negotiate and really give up some of the items that they were looking for, that it was very abundantly clear that they were not coming back to the chamber. And not only that...

VAN SUSTEREN: I was -- I was told that that budget -- the refinancing on that bond had to be done in February. Well, it turned out didn't have to be done in February. Then I was told that it had to be done in March. Well, it didn't have to be done in March. Now I'm reading that there really is no rush until April. So what's the story?

FITZGERALD: No, I think the original bond issue was in late March. They now have looked at probably pushing it out to mid-April, if we can. We're looking for every avenue to get these bonds reissued because if we don't, Greta, it means lay-offs. It means 1,500 people are going to lose their jobs, state workers. And you know, we're not in the business of trying to lay more people off. We're in the business of trying to create jobs in Wisconsin here. So we're looking every avenue. So hopefully, those senate Democrats will show back up so we can pass the rest of it so we don't have to lay off 1,500 workers.

VAN SUSTEREN: Speaker, thank you.

FITZGERALD: Thank you, Greta.