updated 11/27/2005 2:04:17 PM ET 2005-11-27T19:04:17

Guests: Pam Bondi, Mary Prevost, Maureen Dowd, Michael Smerconish, Todd Heisler, William Donahue, Donna Lieberman

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, pregnant pink slip.  Get this.  An unmarried teacher at a Catholic school gets pregnant, decides she‘s going to keep the child, and then she gets fired.  Her church says it‘s fair, but we‘re going to ask, what would Jesus do? 

And did the church break the law? 

Then, Thanksgiving is almost here, and everybody seems to be traveling to grandma‘s house.  But the big question of the night, are our airports safe?  Now, we‘re going to have a special guest with the disturbing truth, and ask, with all the money that they‘re spending of our tax dollars, why can‘t our government get it right? 

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, no passport required, only common sense allowed. 

ANNOUNCER:  From the press room, to the courtroom, to the halls of Congress, Joe Scarborough has seen it all.  Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, thanks a lot for being with us tonight.  I hope you‘re getting ready for a great Thanksgiving weekend.  I‘m going to be heading over to Mississippi, actually, tomorrow morning, and we‘re going to be having a great event.  It‘s going to be out in the open air with a lot of survivors of Hurricane Katrina that are still going through so much.  I will be telling you about that a little bit later on. 

Plus, we‘re going to have all those stories I talked about at the top.  Plus, she‘s a teacher who had sex with a teenage student, but she‘s not going to jail.  Now new information from her lawyer—the big question is, is it going to change your mind or anybody‘s mind on this case that everybody is talking about, again, a teacher that had sex with a 14-year-old student and walks free?

And she‘s a sharp-penned columnist from “The New York Times.”  Wait until you here what Maureen Dowd has to say about how Bill and Hillary Clinton killed the feminist movement. 

Then, the pastor got punched in front of his entire congregation. 

But, first, fired because she‘s pregnant, that‘s what happened to a preschool teacher at a New York City Catholic school.  Michelle McCusker says she lost her teaching job because she‘s having a baby, isn‘t married, and decided not to have an abortion. 

Reporter Carol Anne Riddell from WNBC in New York has the story. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAROL ANNE RIDDELL, WNBC REPORTER (voice-over):  Both the teacher and the New York Civil Liberties Union say this is about discrimination.  Catholic school officials see it very differently, arguing their instructors don‘t just teach religious values; they‘re expected to live by them. 

MICHELLE MCCUSKER, TEACHER:  I have been devastated over this incident. 

RIDDELL:  With her parents at her side, teacher Michelle McCusker broke down in tears, saying she was fired from her Catholic school job because she‘s pregnant and not married. 

MCCUSKER:  I also don‘t understand how a religion that prides itself on being forgiving and on valuing life could terminate me because I‘m pregnant and choosing to have this baby.

RIDDELL:  The New York Civil Liberties Union is taking up the case, charging, the Catholic school, Saint Rose of Lima in Rockaway Beach, Queens, is discriminating against McCusker based on gender and pregnancy. 

DONNA LIEBERMAN, NEW YORK CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION:  Here we have a case of blatant pregnancy discrimination, which is both wrong and illegal. 

RIDDELL:  But the school argues its religious traditions are not just concepts to be taught, but realities to live by.  In a letter to the teacher distributed by the Civil Liberties Union, the school‘s principal says: “A teacher cannot violate the tenets of Catholic morality.  When a situation becomes evident that a teacher‘s life cannot witness what the Catholic Church teaches, then termination of contract must occur,” this though the letter goes on to say, “Your teaching ability and love of your children was of a high degree of professionalism.”

The Civil Liberties Union is filing a complaint with the Federal Equal Opportunity Commission.  But the Diocese of Brooklyn points out the rules are clear in these Saint Rose of Lima school personnel handbook.  A teacher is required to convey the teachings of the Catholic faith by his or her words and actions, demonstrating an acceptance of Gospel values and the Christian tradition. 

Michelle McCusker says she is now working as a substitute in the public schools. 

MCCUSKER:  I held the Catholic religion to a higher standard, I guess. 

I thought they were more forgiving than judgmental. 

RIDDELL (on camera):  The Diocese of Brooklyn says this is a difficult situation for everyone, but adds the school had no choice but to follow the principles in the personnel handbook.  We‘re told it could be several months before there is a ruling on the discrimination complaint. 

Carol Anne Riddell, NBC News. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Thank you so much. 

Joining us now is William Donahue.  He‘s the president of the Catholic League.  And also Donna Lieberman, she‘s executive director of the New York ACLU, which represents the fired teacher. 

Donna, let me go to you first. 

I—I went—despite the fact I‘m a Baptist, I went to Catholic high school.  I have got great feelings towards the Catholic Church, but I‘m very troubled about many things in this case.  I‘m troubled because I think, you know, Christians should be forgiving, and I‘m also troubled because this woman has decided to keep her baby.  I think—I‘m not troubled by that.  I‘m troubled by the fact that she got fired after making that decision. 

However, it seems to me, if the ACLU has spent so much time and energy over the past several decades trying to keep a separation between church and state, is it really up to the ACLU and other legal organizations to now try to breach that wall and get involved in the affairs of the Catholic Church? 

LIEBERMAN:  Oh, we have absolutely no interest in dictating to the church how it should interpret its religious doctrine.  Of course not.  The Catholic Church has every right to promulgate its doctrine, to interpret it, and to impose it on its teachers. 

What it can‘t do is engage in discrimination.  And when it applies the rule against non-marital sexual activity only to women by using pregnancy as the marker for determining that, then it‘s discrimination.  The discrimination...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Donna, do you have an example, though, Donna, of a time that this school or another Catholic school in the New York Diocese found out that a male teacher was engaged in pre-marital sex and they didn‘t fire him?  Because it seems to me that that‘s what you‘re going to have to prove if you‘re going to succeed in this lawsuit. 

LIEBERMAN:  Well, I think that there‘s no indication that this school or the diocese has any mechanism in place to enforce its prohibition against non-marital sexual activity, be it heterosexual or homosexuality, other than based on pregnancy. 

And that‘s what makes it gender discrimination.  The school can‘t impose its religious dogma on people based on race, having a different standard.  It‘s only applicable to blacks.  It‘s only applicable foreigners.  It‘s only applicable to people of a particular ethnicity. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK. 

LIEBERMAN:  It has to be evenhanded. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

LIEBERMAN:  And that‘s what the case is about.  We‘re not about interfering with the religious doctrine of the church, absolutely not. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I think we certainly understand your position. 

Bill Donahue, you and I agree most of the time.  And, at the end of the day, I may agree with you on this one.  But you have got to understand, this is very troubling for a lot of people out there.  It‘s troubling because, you know, for me, the Jesus of the New Testament, the part that really rings true is when he forgives the woman at the well and basically stands down religious leaders when they‘re judging her for committing adultery, and then tells her, you know, where are your accusers now?  Go and sin no more. 

Don‘t you think there‘s some conflict here between what the Catholic Church has decided to do and some of the teachings of Jesus Christ in the New Testament? 

WILLIAM DONAHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE:  Oh, no, no, not at all.  As a matter of fact, the same Jesus threw money changers out of the temple because they were vile in what they were doing and they were disrespectful to the teachings. 

Look, this teacher signed a contract.  No one put a gun to her head.  I taught at Catholic schools for 20 years, four years in elementary schools, 16 years a professor.  I knew going into it what the restrictions were, just as I did when I joined the Air Force.  And if you think the restrictions are too tight, then you don‘t join. 

This woman has a real nerve that she‘s complaining now, a whimpering woman saying, look, I‘m the victim.  She‘s no victim.  She‘s a liar.  She wants to have everything her way. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Bill, she‘s a human, buddy.  You and I have sinned. 

Everybody has sinned. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I mean, Jesus tells us we all sin and have fallen short of the glory of God.  How can you call her a whimpering whiner just because she made a mistake? 

DONAHUE:  No, it‘s not because she made a mistake.  It‘s because she violated her contractual obligations. 

She is not working in a chancery office in an immigration department.  If she were, I don‘t think she would have been fired.  If she were a college professor, she probably wouldn‘t have been fired.  If she worked for Catholic Charities, she probably wouldn‘t have been fired.  But she‘s teaching elementary and secondary kids, in this case here, kindergarten kids. 

And when those parents, who aren‘t wealthy, have to pony up the money to pay in tuition, they want a teacher who not only teaches the three R‘s.  They want somebody who‘s a moral agent, someone who‘s a role model.  That‘s why they put their money up for a Catholic school.  This woman is claiming victim status.  And I‘m tired of all these people claiming victim status about the oppressive Catholic Church. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me ask you about this, Bill.  

There‘s another side of this, where the woman‘s decided that she‘s going to keep her baby and not have an abortion.  Is the Catholic Church sending a message to other young ladies that may get pregnant, if you want to keep your job with the Catholic Church, you need to have an abortion? 

DONAHUE:  On the contrary. 

I can go back to 1984, when Cardinal O‘Connor in New York City—and I know this has been voiced elsewhere with other bishops—any woman, whether she‘s Catholic or an atheist, who would prefer to take their baby to term, as opposed to having an abortion, the Catholic Church will pay for the adoption.  They will pay for the medical costs. 

As a matter of fact, in this case here, this woman has been offered the medical benefits, although she found it convenient not to tell that to the media.  I found out because we called the school. 

No, the Catholic Church is not punishing her because she‘s pregnant.  They‘re punishing her because she violated a contractual stipulation which she agreed to voluntarily.  And, you know...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Donna, what about that point, that she signed this contract and, also, as Bill has said and as others have said, she knew what the teacher‘s handbook said when she went in there; she chose to go to a private school, instead of a public school, and, since she made that decision, she needed to live by the laws that she put herself under? 

LIEBERMAN:  You know, Michelle McCusker was pregnant when she was hired.  She has lived according to those principles ever since she was hired.  She‘s done nothing to violate what‘s in that handbook. 

DONAHUE:  So, she lied when she signed the contract. 

(CROSSTALK)

LIEBERMAN:  Excuse me. 

DONAHUE:  She lied. 

LIEBERMAN:  She was not asked whether she was pregnant when she signed her contract. 

DONAHUE:  She knew what it meant. 

(CROSSTALK)

LIEBERMAN:  She did not misrepresent anything. 

Moreover, I think it‘s disingenuous to claim that she‘s been offered health benefits.  As it turns out, she‘s been offered to purchase health insurance now that she‘s been fired.  That‘s a far cry from offering to continue...

DONAHUE:  That‘s not my understanding. 

LIEBERMAN:  Well, that‘s what—that‘s the truth. 

DONAHUE:  And she turned it down, didn‘t she? 

(CROSSTALK)

LIEBERMAN:  The school has not offered to continue her on with health insurance to cover her health care while she continues the pregnancy and the coverage of her baby. 

DONAHUE:  That‘s not what I have been told.  But that‘s not the issue anyhow. 

(CROSSTALK)

DONAHUE:  Why are you sticking your nose in?

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second.  We‘re going to talk one at a time. 

And, Bill, I want you to answer a question that‘s out there right now.  Again, I think the way that the Catholic Church loses this case is if there are examples of men who have engaged in pre-marital sex that the church knew about, but allowed them to remain teaching either at this school or also at other schools in the diocese.  Do you have any examples of men being fired for having pre-marital sex? 

(CROSSTALK)

DONAHUE:  The onus is on the people making the claim.  Where‘s the evidence?  Show me one case where a Catholic school—particularly, this is the school here which Donna wants to sue, bringing the heavy hand of the state, because she doesn‘t respect separation of church and state. 

You show me at that school in Queens, when they knew of a man

impregnated a woman other than his wife and they turned away and looked

askance and did nothing.  Where is the evidence?  This is surely a purely -

a hypothetical statement.  And the government has no business policing the internal affairs of a yeshiva, a Christian school, or a parochial school.  That‘s why we have insularity between religious institutions and the heavy hand of the government.

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Donna, I guess the final question, following up on that, because I can hear 1,000 people out there asking the same question, well, what would the ACLU have done had a Muslim woman decided not to wear traditional Muslim dress when she was teaching in a Muslim school and she got fired for that?  Would you step in in that case and defend her right to teach, again, wearing Western dress? 

LIEBERMAN:  A religious school can impose its religious doctrine on its teachers. 

What it can‘t do is just impose it on women or just impose it on men.  And it has—it‘s not exempt from the prohibitions against discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, pregnancy.  It‘s just not.  So, we fully respect the right of the Saint Rose of Lima to impose its religious doctrine on the teachers.  But it can‘t just—it can‘t do so based on pregnancy. 

If it‘s about pre-marital sex, it has to apply to men and women evenhandedly. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  And I think that is what you‘re going to have to prove in the end, that the Catholic Church turned a blind eye to men having sex, pre-marital sex, and not being fired. 

Thanks a lot for being with us.  This is a tough case.

William Donahue and Donna Lieberman, greatly appreciate your time tonight. 

Coming up next, as millions of Americans fly to see their loved ones this Thanksgiving weekend, new questions about how safe our skies really are, billions being spent on security, yet some unbelievable security lapses putting us at risk, including a drunk driving around an airfield.  Why can‘t our government fix the problems? 

And the teacher had sex with her underaged student.  She walks free. 

We will talk about that and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  A parishioner packs a mean punch with his pastor.  And, man, I thought my church was tough on ministers.  We will give you that story when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, it can be one of the hardest jobs in the military.  It‘s when you have to notify the family of a fallen soldier. 

In Colorado, a reporter and photographer from “The Rocky Mountain News” got unprecedented access to one of the Marines‘ casualty assistance calls officers and filed the most amazing story. 

And the photographer, Todd Heisler, joins us now on the phone. 

Todd, thank you so much for being with us. 

I am going to start by asking, how did you get this access granted to you from, well, let‘s face it, a military that‘s even been afraid to let photographers take pictures of coffins coming home?

TODD rMD+IT_rMD-IT_HEISLER, PHOTOJOURNALIST, “THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS”:  Well, it was a culmination of Jim Sheeler‘s hard work, the reporter who had been covering a lot of stories on the home front.

And he—he ended up meeting Major Steve Beck.  And, after covering a lot of funerals, he noticed the Marines there and wanted to get behind that and met—and after meeting Major Steve Beck showing him some of the previous work that he had done, he agreed to let us tell this story, but not at first. 

You know, we worked very hard.  He was very quizzical about our intentions, to make sure, you know, our intentions were sincere and that we wanted to tell the story, not make a statement about the war itself, but to really tell the story about these Marines and how they‘re caring for the families. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Todd, the images are just remarkable.  I know everybody is just—it just holds them in check here. 

How were you able to how were you able to stay with it?  There‘s so many of these emotional moments.  You were so close to these families who were crying.  You know, the one young woman that threw herself over the coffin, there just seems to be an unbearable sadness here.  How did you do your job? 

HEISLER:  Well, it was—it was very difficult, just as a person, to experience it, and then, as a photographer, to have to document that. 

You know, it‘s such a hard moment in their lives.  And, you know, I kind of followed the advice that Major Steve Beck gives about carrying for these families.  He says treat them as if they‘re your own family member.  And so I just worked really hard to think about that and really tried to be sensitive to allow them to keep their dignity. 

You know, I feel like the pain—the pain that Jim or I might have felt being around that is nothing compared to what they‘re going through.  So, you know, I felt a responsibility to keep going to tell the story. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You look at the pictures and there seems to be this quiet dignity, obviously, so much pain, but you used the word dignity.  I was thinking about it myself, a sadness, but at the same time a quiet strength. 

Talk about that. 

HEISLER:  Well, I‘m glad that came through, because that was my intention, the last thing, just going back to, you know, trying to treat them as if they‘re your own family member and not wanting to take their dignity away, and knowing when to not make photos, you know, just to think about how I‘m representing them. 

It was—it was challenging, but, you know, it was really important for me to make sure that they were always OK with how they were being represented and that they knew that I was there photographing them. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, I tell you what, Todd.  You did a remarkable service, not only for the families of these people, but also the Americans that never came back home.  Thank you for being with us.

And everybody needs to go to your newspaper‘s Web site and see this photo essay. 

You know, and, again, I‘m a supporter of this war, but I have said from the very beginning, when we were having this stupid debate over whether “Nightline” should show photos of the fallen or not, I think so.  I mean, people need to see the tremendous loss.  They talk about 2,000.  It‘s just a number.  You need to see.  Whether you support the war or oppose it, you need to understand just the unspeakable loss that these people in Middle America are experiencing.  Every day, we read in the paper that one or two or three more Americans gave their life for their country. 

Thanks, Todd.  Appreciate it. 

Changing gears, nearly 22 million Americans take to the sky this Thanksgiving holiday, but are our airports any safer than they were on September 11?  Two weeks ago, at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey, an alleged drunk driver made it past the security checkpoint and then drove his SUV around the runway for 10 minutes before authorities stopped him. 

Now, with incidents like this, how much safer is air travel post-September 11? 

We pose that question to Michael Smerconish.  He‘s the author of “Flying Blind.”

And, Michael, it‘s great to have you here with us again.  But it seems to me that every six months or a year, we hear these horror stories and I come back here and I ask you the same question.  I mean, does the federal government get it?  Are the skies any safer today than they were on September 11? 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  I look forward to coming back here in a year and being able to say, you know, Joe, they really got their act together.  But I‘m not able to say it this year. 

It‘s the same old, same old.  Some of the training is better.  Some of the equipment is better.  But, Joe Scarborough, the fundamental lesson has yet to be learned by the bureaucrats and legislators, and that is that the enemy has common denominators.  It‘s radical Islam that we continue to be threatened by, and yet you have got folks of all shapes, colors, and stripes being treated equally. 

And I have told you before I want everyone to be screened.  I want everyone to walk through the magnetometer, but the reality, Joe, is that guys who look like the two of us are not the ones causing the problem. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Michael, and we have talked about this before, and this is four years later.  I mean, I go through airports with my family.  I get frisked.  My wife gets frisked.  My 17-year-old son gets frisked. My 14-year-old boy gets frisked.  And my 2-year-old daughter gets frisked.

And I‘m sitting here going, this is the stupidest waste of 30 minutes the TSA could possibly participate in.  And then, adding insult to injury, as I walk away, somebody that‘s been in charge of this whispers to me, “I like your show.”

SMERCONISH:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Why do they do that if they know I‘m not going on the plane to bomb it? 

SMERCONISH:  Oh, it‘s a total joke. 

Listen, I have had the experience of flying with a travel bag and being singled out and opening up the bag and the only thing in it is a copy of my book “Flying Blind.”

(LAUGHTER)

SMERCONISH:  And a guy looking at it, saying, hey, I heard that‘s a pretty good read. 

(LAUGHTER)

SMERCONISH:  And I‘m thinking, man, you must not have read it or you wouldn‘t be stopping me. 

Hey, let me tell you a story.  You and I are a couple of anomalies.  We‘re Republican trial lawyers and we like to tell stories to make our point.  Captain Adam Cubbage (ph) of the Army‘s 173rd Fighting Brigade comes home to Philadelphia on a two-week leave a month ago to celebrate the birth of his first son. 

And, Joe, this guy is a Bronze Star winner in the front lines of the war on terror.  When it‘s time for him to go back to the front lines on the war on terror, meaning Afghanistan, he has to take a commercial flight.  He‘s in his full military fatigues with all of his papers intact.  And who do they single out for secondary screening?  A United States Army captain.  I mean, it‘s a disgrace. 

And, for God‘s sakes, spend the resources not on him, not on Scarborough, not on Smerconish, but those who have the common denominators of the terrorists.  And it‘s not us. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And they call it racial profiling, but, come on.  It‘s pretty easy to profile who have been committing these terror acts over the past 10, 15 years, isn‘t it? 

SMERCONISH:  Come on, man.  It‘s terrorist profiling. 

Hey, Joe, did you hear what happened at Giant Station on September 19, when the Giants are hosting the New Orleans Saints, and five Muslim guys are praying in close proximity to the air vents and also to the food prep area?  People are walking by.  There are 80,000 fans in the house that night.  There‘s a Hurricane Katrina fund-raiser.  George Herbert Walker Bush is there.  So, of course, people drop the dime. 

They say, I‘m a little bit uneasy with these five Arab men in their 20s all of a sudden praying right here.  And, you know, nobody is criticizing the Americans who said somebody ought to at least check that out.  I mean, that‘s smart.  That‘s a post-9/11 world. 

But, for some reason, where they hit us on September 11, we still haven‘t learned our lesson. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, so who do we blame, Michael?  Who do we call?  Is it the president‘s fault?  Is it Congress‘ fault?  We have got to get specific, so a year from now this is fixed. 

SMERCONISH:  OK. 

Norman Mineta, the secretary of transportation, should have been the first fired after the initial Bush administration.  Instead, he was the first asked to stay.  This president is my president.  I know he‘s your president, even though we‘re not entirely happy.  But the guy is politically correct.  It comes from the top down. 

And I have spoken to a lot of your former colleagues in the Congress.  And, on a one-on-one bay basis, Joe, they all agree with me:  Yes, you‘re on the right track, and this is what we need to do and so forth.  Take a page out of the book of the Israelis.

But no one is willing to champion the cause, because nobody wants to be associated with the dirty P-word, profiling, except Scarborough and Smerconish. 

SCARBOROUGH:  There you go.  It‘s not politically correct. 

Michael, thank you so much for being with us, as always. 

SMERCONISH:  Happy Thanksgiving. 

SCARBOROUGH:  We love having you there.  And I will guarantee you Americans love hearing somebody come out and cut through all the garbage. 

Again, the book is “Flying Blind.”  And, as long as you don‘t work for the airline industry, you will love it.  Go out and buy it, if you haven‘t already, and read it this weekend. 

Coming up next, disgraced-teacher-turned-sex-predator Debra Lafave, tonight, her lawyer defends the sweetheart deal that let her walk free.  Unbelievable.  This woman should be behind bars. 

And look at this, caught on tape, a pastor punched by a parishioner in the middle of his services.  You‘re going to see what happened and what‘s not going to happen to the man who punched him coming up next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You have heard it said that you‘re supposed to turn the other cheek.  Well, that‘s what this minister did, but as an act of self-defense. 

We will have that story and tell you how it ended when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(AUDIO GAP) news you and your family need to know.  

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Did Bill and Hillary kill feminism?  The incomparable Maureen Dowd is here to tell you why she thinks they did, plus, why she‘s not sure that men are going to be so necessary in the future. 

Plus, look at this, a pastor turning the other cheek in his own church

why he‘s now saying all is forgiven. 

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We‘re going to have those stories in just minutes. 

But, first, convicted sex offender Debra Lafave, her lawyer actually came out and spoke today, defending her sentence as being fair.  Now, the Florida teacher pleaded guilty to having sex with a 14-year-old kid, her student.  And what does she get for the punishment?  Well, no jail time, three years of house arrest and probation.  This is what her lawyer had to say today. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN FITZGIBBONS, ATTORNEY FOR DEBRA LAFAVE:  I think it‘s a very fair resolution. 

First, for the young man, he does not have to go through the ordeal of the deposition process and a trial.  And, for my client, who is mentally ill, is under the treatment of a psychiatrist and has been treated for the last 10 years by various psychiatrists, this helps her, too.  It‘s a good balance. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  My gosh, a good balance for whom?  Certainly not society. 

Is this punishment enough?  Shouldn‘t a teacher with unrestricted access to our children get the book thrown at her in a case like this? 

Well, with me now is Florida assistant state attorney Pam Bondi, whose office was prosecuting the case.  And we also have criminal defense attorney Mary Prevost. 

Pam, let me pick on you first, because this was in your office. 

PAM BONDI, FLORIDA PROSECUTOR:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I think, and everybody that I‘m talking to in Middle American, other than lawyers, thinks the result in this case is a disgrace and it sends a terrible message to other sex predators out there that you can do the crime and not do the time.  Why did you let her walk free of jail? 

BONDI:  You know, Joe, this case got so much intense media scrutiny.  It‘s not the media‘s fault, but it got so much media attention that finally the boy, the victim in the case and his mother, couldn‘t take it anymore.  And they came to us and said, we can‘t do it.  We can‘t go forward.  She said:  I don‘t want my son deposed.  I don‘t want to put him through this trial.  And think about the incredible publicity it‘s gotten to far. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, are you saying, Pam, that it‘s because of the media?  So, it‘s the media‘s fault that a 14-year-old kid is raped and now a sex predator doesn‘t go to jail? 

BONDI:  No, of course not, Joe.  Of course not. 

And, listen, you‘re preaching to the choir.  We felt that she should go to prison.  I feel—we still feel she should go to prison.  But this mother couldn‘t take it anymore with her son.  She‘s a great mother.  And her son has to go to school every day.  And every time it was on top of the news—and the trial hadn‘t even gotten started yet—it was really, really, really tough on this boy. 

(CROSSTALK)

BONDI:  She came to us and this is what she wanted.

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, Pam, but here‘s my problem with it, though.

BONDI:  Hold on, Joe. 

She came to us and that was what she wanted.  My boss, Mark Ober, went out at 10:00 at night to try to basically explain to her how strongly we felt about this and our position on the case.  And we listened to her, and she was very compelling. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  All right, Pam.  But here‘s my problem with it, though.  Just because this woman wants to protect her son—and I understand that she wants to protect her child—and just because this kid doesn‘t want to be deposed doesn‘t change the fact that sex predators from Maine to San Diego have been sent a message this week that they can rape or molest little children, and, if they pick the right victim, if they pick a kid who is shy, that is not going to be able to stand up to the heat, then the prosecutors are going to throw their hands up, the judge is going to throw his hands up, and they are going to be able to walk free. 

So, is the lesson at the end of the day sex predators should pick weak victims?

BONDI:  Of course not.  And this boy is not weak.

This case was very unique, in all the attention it got and it‘s still getting.  And now, with only a few days of attention with the case, hopefully, he can go on with his life.  Can you imagine a trial, what a circus a trial would be for this boy and his family?  And he has been through a lot. 

And, no, that‘s not the message any prosecutor in the world would want to send.  It‘s doing the right thing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But it‘s the message that—it‘s the message molesters are getting, Pam.

BONDI:  You know, our job isn‘t only, Joe, to lock up the bad guy. 

Well, our job isn‘t only to lock up a bad person, but also to look out for the rights of the victim and what‘s in the victim‘s best interests.  And, in this case, she got three years of house arrest, jail from her home, followed by seven years of probation.  She‘s a registered sex offender now. 

And, hey, we‘re all agreeing with you.  We wanted her to go to prison. 

We didn‘t feel we had a weak case at all. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

Let me bring in Mary Prevost. 

Mary, I‘m very concerned about this.  I‘m concerned because, again, I think it sends a horrendous message, that, if you‘re a sex predator, just pick the right victim that‘s going be afraid to testify.  I mean, let‘s face it.  Women have been raped for years, and rapists get off because they don‘t want to testify against them. 

Isn‘t there some way to throw these thugs in jail without having somebody getting on the stand and going through this process? 

MARY PREVOST, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, you know, I think that could have happened if the prosecutor‘s office wanted to say, well, we will dismiss the complaint if you plead to one count and you stipulate to a certain amount of jail time. 

But that didn‘t happen in this case.  The prosecutor‘s offered two counts and they left it up to the judge to make the final decision.  They made their pitch.  The defense made their pitch.  And the judge decided, given all of the evidence he had, psychological reports from Ms. Lafave, interviews with the young man, a determination that there was a consensual aspect of this, and all of the things that we didn‘t...

SCARBOROUGH:  Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.  Can a 14-year-old consent to having sex with a 25-year-old teacher that looks like that? 

PREVOST:  Under law, it‘s statutory rape, you‘re right. 

However, the state legislature has allowed for a maximum and a minimum.  And the minimum in this case is no jail time.  And the reason that the legislature allows for such a broad sentencing range is because different fact patterns occur in every different case.  Had she...

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.

(CROSSTALK)

PREVOST:  Had she pinned him down and hurt him and something like that, she would be in custody.  But she...

SCARBOROUGH:  Mary, the kid is—Mary, the kid is 14 years old.  He cannot give consent.  You and I both know that. 

PREVOST:  You‘re right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I want to talk, though, about her mental state, because we hear the lawyer talking about her mental state, the judge talking about her mental state. 

I mean, this sounds like 1968 all over again, where you have got these judges go, oh, well, you know, bad things happened to her.  Her sister died.  Her parents got sick.  So, yes, she went out and raped a kid. , but, my gosh, she has psychological issues. 

Obviously, she was mentally healthy enough to teach children in the first place.  So, why should we now, after she rapes one, why should we allow her to, again, walk because of an unstable mental presence?

(CROSSTALK)

BONDI:  Joe, I‘m sorry.  Excuse me. 

Just to clarify something, Mary, we negotiated this and we take responsibility for this plea.  It wasn‘t the judge in this case.  We met with the defense attorney, and we did agree to the three years house arrest followed by the seven years probation. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, Mary, go ahead and respond. 

PREVOST:  OK.

SCARBOROUGH:  Thank you for clearing that up, Pam. 

Go ahead, Mary. 

PREVOST:  OK, great. 

So, then the prosecutor also agreed.  It was a joint thing that was blessed by the judge.  And, you know, like I said before, there are facts and circumstances in each individual case.  Some warrant probation.  Some warrant the maximum.  Some warrant something in between. 

And so the prosecutors must have determined that there was some value to putting her on house arrest, which is three years of jail time in your house.  You can‘t go anywhere.  You essentially can‘t have a life.  You can go to the grocery store.  You can go to church on Sunday.  Otherwise, you‘re going to be staying at home. 

They must have found some value in this particular case, that this was not egregious enough to demand a stipulated sentence. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.

PREVOST:  And they did get something out of it.  And, remember, she is a pariah for the rest of her life.  And that‘s a jail sentence itself. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

Thank you, Mary and Pam.  You know, we usually agree with each other. 

Sorry for being tough on you. 

BONDI:  That‘s OK. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I know your office thinks they did the best they could. 

But I appreciate both of you being here. 

PREVOST:  Thanks. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I just got to say to you, friends, though, out there, again, I understand there‘s a legal process that you go through.  There‘s stipulations.  You have got the defense and the prosecutor talking to each other.

But I‘m telling you, millions and millions of people in Middle America thinks this sounds just like, again, sort of the freewheeling liberal justice system that we had in the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s that I thought we were past.  But you have got—again, you have got a 25-year-old teacher who is molesting a 14-year-old kid.  She doesn‘t go to jail.  There‘s something wrong with it. 

Now, take a look at this video, a pastor in Oklahoma punched in the face.  The man on the attack is a member of the congregation.  It happened last Sunday.  Reverend Billy Joe Daugherty called the people to the altar to pray when suddenly he was attacked.  Church members finally stepped in and restrained the man.  Reverend Daugherty, like a pro, kept on preaching with blood dripping down his face. 

And police have the prayer puncher in custody.  But get this.  The reverend is turning the other cheek and he refuses to press charges. 

Well, when we come back, we have got much more.  Are men necessary?  That‘s a question my next guest isn‘t so sure.  Maureen Dowd, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, is in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

Plus, this:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We just need some help out here.  It is so pitiful.  What are they going to do?  What are we going to do?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Remember this young man?  His plea for help after Hurricane Katrina put him in the national spotlight.  What‘s he doing now? 

We will tell you when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for “The New York Times” Maureen Dowd has always voiced her opinion on the great debates of the day facing America.  Her latest book tackles the biggest question that‘s raged since men and women came together.  The question, are men necessary? 

I asked Maureen if women can still have it all. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAUREEN DOWD, COLUMNIST, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  Yes, I think that a lot of young women now think, you know, the way we did it was a grind, and, you know, so they‘re opting out. 

But they just have to be careful.  There have to be enough alpha women in politics and in the marketplace that we can reshape it, so that if these women someday want to come back into the workplace, it will be a workplace that is conducive to that. 

So, I think women are figuring that out now.  First, we had to figure out that we didn‘t want to be little men.  And, you know, now we have to figure out exactly how to get the balance that makes us happy. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You talked about, you know, the aprons.  You talk about the breast augmentation and all the plastic surgery.  Don‘t you fear that women that decide to do that, go that route when they‘re 17, 18, 19 years old may regret it when they‘re 37, 38, 39, 40, and all of a sudden their doctor husband decides to marry somebody in their 20s? 

DOWD:  Yes, exactly. 

It was funny.  On one of the radio shows I was on, on NPR, a dominatrix called in, and she said that she was the dominatrix for men who were on their way back to Fairfield County, Connecticut, and that they didn‘t want to go home to all their boring little conformed Barbie wives, and that she wanted to tell me that strong women were doing well, because she was doing well. 

(LAUGHTER)

DOWD:  So, it‘s causing conversations even with dominatrices.  I told her, actually, I think—I think that I‘m a dominatrix by profession as well. 

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  What does Hillary Clinton as president of the United States in 2008 mean to feminism, mean to women in America? 

DOWD:  Well, I think that Hillary is responsible for sort of killing off what was left of feminism, when she forced the feminists to come along with her and defend Bill against the allegations of these women who would come out and truthfully say that he had been involved with them. 

And he likes two kinds of women.  He likes the trashy women to get involved with.  And then he has the high-toned women in his Cabinet and his wife, who protect him when the trashy women come after him.  So, the feminists and the female lawmakers were forced to defend his retrogressive behavior against women in order to get the progressive policies for women. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, do you think Bill and Hillary helped kill feminism in 1998, 1999? 

DOWD:  Oh, yes, because they turned the feminists into hypocrites.  The same feminists who had, you know, supported Anita Hill and tried to turn her into the Rosa Parks of sexual harassment were now defending Bill. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Final question, the Shania Twain question of the hour: 

What‘s the best part of being a woman? 

DOWD:  Oh, gosh, getting to meet guys like you, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You wrote a book about it. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  There you go.  And I know you will make my mom happy with that answer. 

So, well, thank you so much, Maureen.  And, again, great honor to have you here.  Really appreciate it. 

DOWD:  Thank you. 

Oh, and Joe, I bet you wish you were a member of the House now, huh? 

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, my God.  What I would have done to be there and be stuck on Friday night screaming at the other side. 

(CROSSTALK)

DOWD:  And have you ever seen such—have you ever seen such incompetence and goofy behavior since the Democrats ran the House? 

DOWD:  No.  It just—it really does.  It keeps getting worse by the week. 

Thanks a lot.  And I owe you a drink.  We appreciate you being here. 

DOWD:  All right.  Thanks a lot, Joe. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  And I will tell you what.  If you get a chance, get that book and read it this weekend.  It is fascinating.  Men and women alike will be debating this one for some time to come. 

Now, before we go to break, this week‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge: 

According to AAA, what‘s the busiest travel day of the year?  Take a look at the choices and the answer when we return. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Here‘s the answer for today‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY challenge.  The busiest travel day of the year is Thanksgiving.  According to AAA, more people travel more than 50 miles from home tomorrow than any other day of the year. 

You know, as many as 6,000 evacuees aren‘t going to be with their loved ones for Christmas. 

NBC News caught up with young Charles Evans, who we have been following from a homeless place alone and in New Orleans to his new home in Texas, where he‘s now happy and getting settled.  And it‘s nice, obviously, to see that. 

Now, tomorrow, I‘m going to be in Mississippi.  It really was the part of this story that America seemed to overlook.  We‘re going to be in Waveland, Mississippi, because I will tell you, again, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, they‘re still hurting, just like the people in New Orleans.  And it‘s—it‘s going to be—I know it‘s going to be very, very moving. 

We want to show you this clip. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We are valiant people in this part of the world. 

And we will endure.  The important thing is that we‘re still alive. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think the American people will rally behind—behind their own.  We always have.  It shows the true colors of our American people. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How do you lose a boat? 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It will take at least a year to clean up the mess they got around here. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I tried to be strong, man, because you break down and everybody around you starts to break down.  But it‘s tough to see people like this. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This is where I was born.  And I plan on dying here, probably, you know?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, September seemed to last forever.  We were over there most of the month.  And we will be back there tomorrow, thanking God for all of his blessings and helping so many people get through that terrible time. 

We will be right back in a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  I hope you and your family have a great and safe Thanksgiving.  I will see you tomorrow morning in Mississippi. 

Right now, let‘s go to “HARDBALL WITH CHRIS MATTHEWS.”  It starts right now. 

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

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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