updated 1/5/2006 11:36:11 AM ET 2006-01-05T16:36:11

Guest: Ana Marie Cox, Jack Hickey, Shelley Moore Capito

RITA COSBY, HOST, “RITA COSBY: LIVE & DIRECT”:  And now let‘s go to Joe Scarborough and SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY—Joe.

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Boy, Rita, that is such tragic news.  And I just—you look at the pictures of those family members celebrating and crying and thanking God, and then to find out that it was all a lie, it has to be one of the most heartbreaking stories that you have covered in some time, isn‘t it? 

COSBY:  It absolutely is. 

It‘s heartbreaking and you just go through all these emotions.  First, when we heard it was grim news, your heart was broken.  Then you‘re elated that this was maybe a miracle.  And then to find out now what happened and to find out that they were misled, it‘s outrageous.  It‘s disgusting, Joe.

And I hope these families get some of the answers that they truly, truly deserve, and get some sort of justice after what happened. 

SCARBOROUGH:  It really is outrageous, Rita.  And we‘re going to be going back to you. 

And I want to know why it took them so darn long to get back to the family members and let them know that it was all a terrible mistake, when they knew that those men were dead in the mine.  And they just let the families sit there, continuing to celebrate with church bells ringing.

I‘m telling you, it‘s a disgrace, and I can‘t wait to talk to you more about it in just a little bit and get the real story on the ground there. 

Tonight, in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, only one survived.  And there is, as Rita and I have saying, anger and outrage in West Virginia, and for good reason.  The hopes and prayers of 12 families, and the entire watching nation shattered, as 12 of the 13 miners are found dead underground. 

The shocking news coming hours after family members were told that their loved ones were alive.  There‘s so much sorrow tonight in West Virginia, and across a mourning country and so many unanswered questions.  We are going to get into all of it in this special SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

Welcome to our show tonight, the tragedy in West Virginia in a coal mine.  How did the families‘ jubilation last night that we all saw on TV and read in our newspapers this morning turn so quickly to tragedy? 

Last night, of course, elation, as families learned that their fathers, their grandfathers, their sons, those 12 miners had been found alive.  But that information was so horribly wrong.  And hours later—And why did it take hours? -- as families were celebrating with church bells ringing in West Virginia, new word came that 12 of those husbands and sons were dead in the mine, with only one clinging to life. 

Here with more on the wrenching turn of events is NBC‘s Tom Costello -

Tom.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM COSTELLO, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Joe, good evening.

As you might expect, this town, which is home to generations of mining families, is adamant that they get answers.  They are angry and they are determined to find out why they were misled so dramatically, in their view.

It has been an emotional 24 hours, brutally emotional pendulum swings. 

And this town is now mourning 12 of their own. 

(voice-over):  The bodies of the 12 miners rest here tonight, at this makeshift morgue, a blow to the families who just 18 hours ago thought they would be celebrating a miracle together; 9:10 last night, a hint of the tragedy to come. 

BEN HATFIELD, PRESIDENT & CEO, INTERNATIONAL COAL GROUP:  Mine rescue crews have also located the body of a miner near the belt drive at the entrance to the second left section, which is roughly 11,250 feet from the mine portal. 

COSTELLO:  It is the body of Terry Helms.  He‘s alone near the coal belt. And that gives rescuers hope that the others got away.  Then, before midnight, the rescue team reaches the bodies.  Through heavy face masks, they radio back word of what they have found, but the command center doesn‘t get the right message. 

GENE KITTS, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL COAL GROUP:  When it was communicated to the surface, it came across as 12 alive. 

COSTELLO:  At least 30 people hear that over a speaker in the mine office, but, even though they have been told to be cautious, someone calls the families gathered in a church. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Screaming, and the church bells are ringing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Screaming that they‘re alive and they‘re coming out.  They said if they found them alive, they would ring the church bell, and they did. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The church bell has rung.

COSTELLO:  All the cable news networks go live with the report. 

COSBY:  And we were just told in the last few moments that 12 are alive. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And that thrill passed through this crowd here at Sago Baptist Church that these men are alive. 

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN REPORTER:  And it is truly a remarkable moment. 

COSTELLO:  Newspapers rushed to press with the incredible development; a story that has captivated the nation looks almost certain to have a storybook ending.  But then, 45 minutes later, at 12:30 a.m., rescuers call the command center so say all but one miner are dead. 

Command center officials choose not to tell the families, who go on celebrating. 

HATFIELD:  And in the process of being cautious, we allowed the jubilation to go on longer than it should have. 

COSTELLO:  But at 2:50 in the morning, with the deaths confirmed, mine officials go to the church to tell the families what really happened. 

HATFIELD:  The initial report from the rescue team to the command center indicated multiple survivors, but that information proved to be a miscommunication. 

COSTELLO:  Only the youngest of the miners, 27-year-old Randal McCloy, has somehow survived.  Rescuers rush him unconscious and in critical condition to the nearest hospital.  Meanwhile, the families are seething. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It was an outsider that came and said that one of the mine officials were coming up here to tell us that 12 men survived. 

COSTELLO:  This afternoon, company officials voiced regret, but some here today say that‘s not good enough. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I feel sad inside, but I also feel let down about the information that was given. 

COSTELLO:  This morning on “The Today Show,” a family member took on the governor over the mine‘s safety record. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”) 

GOV. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA:  This went on for months, and I‘m understanding that the...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And they still sent men in there?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO:  Late this afternoon, investigators begin the long process of figuring out what happened.  Meanwhile, Randal McCloy is in stable condition and has squeezed his wife‘s hand. 

ANNA MCCLOY, WIFE OF RANDAL MCCLOY:  Ask everybody, just keep on praying. 

COSTELLO (on camera):  Now, these 12 miners were found really at the very back of the mine. 

They had constructed a makeshift barrier, essentially a piece of plastic sheeting that they had pulled down to try to keep the bad air out.  And they had been using their oxygen canisters that apparently ran out.  That is what so tragic.  They survived the initial explosion, and then of course they died because they ran out of oxygen. 

So, clearly, the investigators will be looking at that.  But also there is this; they may well have known that their situation was dire, because tonight the mining company is strongly suggesting that these miners may well have left messages to their loved ones—Joe, back to you. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  I will tell you what.  It‘s really been a roller-coaster ride of emotions for the family of these 12 dead miners. 

NBC‘s Ron Allen has more on the outrage that is still rising in West Virginia. 

Ron, what do you have? 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RON ALLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Joe, several hundred people attended a memorial service here at the church that continues to be a sanctuary for this community.  It‘s probably the first of many services that we will see in this community, as it tries to continue to recover from this incredible sequence of events. 

An unbelievable expression of emotion last night, from jubilation to utter pain. 

(voice-over):  When you live in a hard-scrabble place that yields little in the way of comfort, moments of pure joy seem all the more bitter. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you hear the church bells? 

ALLEN:  Those bells at the Sago Baptist Church were sweet music to the miners‘ families. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, sweetheart.

CRYSTINA NEEL:  Everything broke loose and everybody just started shouting and praising God that our men are getting out. 

HELEN WYNANS:  The candles are lit in the front of the church in there, and that symbolizes their life and they came out alive, all of them.

ALLEN:  Word spread, but not a lot of information.  And no one was quite sure who had first delivered the news.  It took hours to find out that news was just wrong, and the hours of celebrating made the agonizing truth that much harder to bear. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They told us they were alive. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They were checking them out to make sure they was all right.  They was bringing them back up here, so they can have food before they go to the hospital. 

ALLEN:  Ann Meredith (ph), her husband, Dan (ph), and niece Danielle (ph), had waited 45 hours to hear about Ann‘s (ph) father. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My dad, Jim Bennett, is dead because of them. 

ALLEN:  Company officials had just told them there had been that miscommunication and only one of the trapped miners had survived. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And now I just find out that my granddaddy is dead because people had lied on the TV and everywhere else. 

ALLEN:  No one here thought the miracle would be as fleeting as a candle‘s flame.  Life couldn‘t be that cruel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Now we have no survivors.  Family members is gone, not only mine, but others, 12 other people.  And we want to know why. 

ALLEN:  Anna Casto lost her cousin, Otto Withers (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘re Christian people, ourself.  We have got some of us is right down to saying that we don‘t even know if there is a lord anymore.  We had a miracle, and it was taken away from us. 

ALLEN:  Some faded inside the sanctuary.  Others made their way past the lights and down the muddy road into a miserable night. 

HARLEY ABLES:  They straight out lied to millions of people watching and all the families here. 

ALLEN:  The governor insisted no one intended to deceive the families. 

But no words could ease their pain. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Pray for us.  We‘re West Virginians.  We might be dumb, but we love our families.  They don‘t care about us. 

ALLEN (on camera):  Their neighbors and friends certainly care about them.  Throughout the day, there were volunteers here at the church who were preparing baskets of food and other comforts for the families and then delivering them. 

And here tonight at the memorial service, many attending were from mining families who came from nearby towns—Joe, back to you. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, thanks so much.

It‘s just such a tragedy.  You know, there are so many tough questions that need to be raised.  What actually did happen that night?  And why were the workers exposed?  Did this business and did the coal mining industry bust unions, who, had they been there, would have been able to protect the safety better than this company? 

Why did the misinformation get to the people in the church?  And as the officials, as these business owners, as the governor, as all these other representatives there heard the church bells ringing and then got the information that in fact these miners were dead, why did they wait so long to go and tell the family members about the tragedy? 

It seems like the cruelest, the cruelest of hoaxes.  I‘m not here suggesting tonight that anybody released this information on purpose to hurt these family members.  Of course, nobody did that, but when the—when the officials of this company knew that, in fact, these people were celebrating over a lie, when they knew that, why didn‘t they step up quickly and get the real information out there?

The head of the company says it was an abundance of caution?  Come on.  I don‘t buy that for a second.  The abundance of cautious should have came early on, when they would—gone to the family members, saying, hey, we don‘t know whether your relatives or alive or dead.  You just got to be calm.  We found some bodies.  We are going to figure out the situation. 

But they didn‘t do that.  And because of that, I tell you, this is just one of the most terrible stories that I have seen in some time. 

Now, there are many questions out there, obviously, about the safety of the mining industry. 

And here with more on that is NBC‘s Martin Savidge—Martin.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, NBC NEW ORLEANS CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Joe. 

Mining has always been considered one of the deadliest ways to make a living.  And this latest tragedy is not likely to change that opinion.  But there‘s more you need to know. 

(voice-over):  Despite what happened at the Sago mine, mining deaths are on the decline.  There were 47 in 1995, less than half that a decade later.  But some fear that may be changing.  Critics contend the Federal Department of Mine Safety and Health Administration is now less a policeman and more a partner with the mining companies.

ELLEN SMITH, MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH NEWS PUBLISHER:  They say that they‘ve formed these partnerships to improve safety, and I don‘t doubt it.  But you kind of say, OK, so where‘s the watchdog?

SAVIDGE:  Another change:  price.  As oil and natural gas prices have soared, the cost of coal has also jumped, up 50 percent from 2004.  And mines are under pressure to deliver.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Right now, coal producers are firmly in the driver‘s seat.

SAVIDGE:  New companies are getting into the business, some with limited backgrounds in mining.  The Sago mine is owned by International Coal Group.  ICG bought the Sago mine two months ago and blames its injury rate, three times the industry average, on previous owners.

Experts say the priority a company places on safety must come from the head office.

SMITH:  It trickles down, and it‘s got to start at the top.

SAVIDGE:  Sago says safety is a priority, but family members disagree.

JOHN BENNETT, SON OF MINER VICTIM:  The mine owners their self know that it‘s unsafe.  And they just keep letting them in, go in there.

SAVIDGE (on camera):  This latest tragedy may bring tougher regulation.  As one former miner put it, new safety laws are often written in blood—Joe. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Thank you so much, Martin.

What a—again, what a tragedy. 

We‘re going to be right back in a minute, and we‘re going to hear about family outrage.  We are going to be going to Rita, who is—Rita Cosby, who‘s on the scene down there. 

But you just look at these pictures, and you have just got to feel for these family members who, tonight, they just have to be in our thoughts and our prayers, for the hell that they have endured over the past several days. 

We will be back in a minute. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  From elation to tears and, today, anger.

We will be back with more on the latest that‘s happening on the ground in West Virginia when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  A heartbroken community remembers the 12 miners they lost in the mines last night with a peaceful candlelight vigil.  But angry family members are lashing out against a coal company they say lied to them about the fate of their loved ones. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Anger. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Anger.  I mean, you just—and we kept asking questions, and they‘re like, well, we can‘t talk no more.  We have—no, you talk to the family. 

You killed our family. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘re Christian people, ourself.  We have got some of us is right down to saying that we don‘t even know if there is a lord anymore.  We had a miracle, and it was taken away from us. 

What happened, people?  Tell me. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s unsafe.  It‘s unfit.  I mean, my gosh, 12 miners just lost their lives.  Tell me, would you go in there? 

ABLES:  There was probably 20,000 people waiting for good news, and we got it, and it was nothing but lies. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They told us they were alive. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  They were checking them out to make sure they was all right.  They was bringing them back up here, so they can have food before they go to the hospital.  And then the cop shows up there.  And we thought it was our family coming there.  And our family ain‘t there.  Our family is dead, because they lied to us. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Tell me why they done this to our family. 

That‘s all I ask. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) 

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, you look at those faces and you see it‘s been such a day and night of raw emotion and anger in West Virginia. 

Let‘s go to West Virginia right now, back to the scene really of the tragedy, and go to MSNBC‘s Rita Cosby. 

Rita, what‘s the very latest with the families and with the recriminations over just that terrible unfolding of events that you reported on last night? 

COSBY:  Joe, family members today are so outraged; they are infuriated. 

And I get the sense that a lot of them are still in a state of shock.  They can‘t believe what they experienced last night.  Here we were—we were on the air live around 9:00 p.m. Eastern time.  They first get the word that one body is found.  And, at that point, they know that, look, the chances are very unlikely that probably their loved ones, the remaining 12 that were missing at that point, would survive. 

Then they get word three hours later, just stunned and jubilation, the church bells were ringing, as you were talking about, finding out that this was just in their words a miracle in West Virginia, only to find out that three hours later that they were told just the horrible, sobering truth, that their loved ones didn‘t make it and that only one miner survived. 

And now to hear today some of the details, that this company that owned the mine knew that information was wrong 15 or 20 minutes afterwards, and sat on that information until they could get clear confirmation of what was really going on, but sat on it, let the church bells ring, let everybody cheer for almost three hours, and then they found out that horrible fate.  And people are just furious and so angry.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Rita, that‘s just outrageous. 

COSBY:  It is.

SCARBOROUGH:  I cannot understand why this company would sit on that news for almost three hours while these people were inside celebrating, hugging each other, singing hymns, praising God.

And then three hours later they come out.  Have you got any explanation at all from this company or from anybody on the ground why in the world they did that? 

COSBY:  Well, you know, it‘s funny.  A lot of people are trying to pass the buck today, because everybody knows this was a horrible, horrible mistake. 

The first thing that sounded—that happened originally definitely sounds like that was unintentional.  We know that the rescue crews on the ground, many thousands of feet in at that point, relayed a transmission that went to the command center, which 30 heard on basically an open mike, local state federal officials.  They heard it as 12 were alive. 

It turns out it was only alive.  But the rescue crews on the ground said that they got the information right, that somehow that they misinterpreted.  It sounded wrong in the communication that was passed on. 

What people are saying today is why didn‘t the company confirm that information, because we know in the minutes right afterwards, they were all hugging each other, relaying the information to the press, that this was great news, that there was a miracle.  And now today the company, the only explanation they have, Joe, is saying that they weren‘t quite sure, when they found out that it was wrong, they didn‘t know how much of it was wrong.  Were maybe some alive, some dead?

And the last thing they said that they wanted to do was go back to the family members with some piecemeal information.  What a lot of folks are saying and what we harped on right away was, wait a minute.  When you knew that it was wrong, you should have at least gone to the family members right away—they‘re the ones who deserved to know—and said, wait, wait, wait.  We don‘t know what part of this is right, what part is wrong.  Hold your horses.

Let‘s just sort of see what we‘re dealing with.  And that‘s where the big blame is today, is, why did they not go back and say, let‘s wait until we have all the details?  Why did they let them cheer?  There is so much anger, so many emotions—Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, it‘s so terrible, Rita.  Thank you so much for bringing us that report.  We really do appreciate it. 

And I want to turn now to a lawmaker from Capitol Hill who‘s already calling for hearings into what happened and to talk about mining. 

With me now is Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito, Republican from West Virginia, who was in the church when the families were told that they the miners were alive. 

Congresswoman, take us inside that church, not only after the first news came that they were alive, but through the three hours, the terrible ordeal.  What was it like in there? 

REP. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO ®, WEST VIRGINIA:  Well, what happened, we had been—and the church was wonderful.  The community was wonderful through the whole days of the vigil. 

And the families were incredibly strong.  And I was—there are sort of two rooms in the church.  There‘s a sanctuary and then more of an eating hall.  Most of the members of the family had gravitated to the sanctuary over the days and had taken up residence there. 

And so I was out in the eating room, in the hallway, when I heard this just eruption of joyous cheering.  And I was like, what?  What happened?  And I went running up.  And some of the folks, the family members, said, they‘re alive; they‘re alive.  And I just was incredulously joyful to think what a miracle had happened here. 

And I didn‘t really question, where did the information—my assumption was and everybody in there was thinking if this information is coming from the mine, then it‘s got to be the right information. 

And we sort of went on.  The sad part about what happened next was in

there was all this joy in the sanctuary, but there was another family who we knew who had lost a family member, because if you remember earlier, they had mentioned that one of the miners was definitely found, a body was found. 

And this family had not been notified.  They had not been confirmed by the company as to the loss of their loved one.  They were surmising, because of where the individual was found and the job, that it was him.  And it turned out they were right. 

And so, I then tried to go and find information on this individual to help them through their sorrow.  And that‘s when I basically ended up in an information blackout, next—and the agonizing wait.  The silence was deafening.  And then to go back into the church again, the governor comes in, and we all knew that there was going to be an announcement.  And to hear it, it was just shattering.  You can‘t even imagine. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Congresswoman, have you learned in the past 24 hours why there was such a tragic communication breakdown in this case? 

CAPITO:  Only through what I have heard through the media. 

I think in hearing your earlier comments, I think we all know now and certainly at the time more frequent updates was what we were needing all through the whole vigil.  That wasn‘t just at the end, certainly at the end, but through the day, hourly.  Even if it was no change, just please come and tell us what‘s going on. 

And I think the tragic mistake was that even though they didn‘t have 100 percent confirmation, they should have come to the families.  I‘m sure they‘re realizing this now, but to come to the families and tell them what you‘re hearing is not exactly—please start saying your prayers again.  There are others—there‘s other information out here. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And talk about investigations on Capitol Hill.  What do you think Congress should do? 

CAPITO:  Yes. 

Well, we have got to find out how that blast occurred, why it occurred, and where it occurred, and what caused it.  That obviously is going to be the first line.  And the federal inspectors are in there now, with a team of workers, right off the bat to try to determine that. 

We have got to define where the communication breakdown is.  Certainly there‘s a protocol as to how to communicate not only with the media, but certainly with the family members who are—have such loss at stake here.  And then we need to find out, too, with the violations and others that we have come to learn this particular mine site, and I‘m sure others are.  what does this mean?  Was the enforcement there?  Were the penalties there?  Was the improvement moving along? 

Was there a breakdown?  Certainly there‘s a breakdown.  If something like this can occur, there certainly is a breakdown.

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it.

CAPITO:  And we have got to unturn every stone here. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thank you so much, Congresswoman.  We really do appreciate you being with us.  And we will follow this, obviously, as the hearings move forward. 

Everybody that has followed this story has been so impressed by just the good people that you represent in West Virginia, tough, hard-working men and women of faith.  And just let them know that our thoughts and prayers are with them. 

CAPITO:  And we so appreciate that.  And we need your prayers and your thoughts.  And West Virginians are incredibly strong people, as you said, but this is a difficult pill to swallow. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, no doubt about it.

OK, thank you so much, Congresswoman.  God bless you. 

And we will be right back. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  New information in the missing honeymooner story we have been covering for a while now.  The captain speaks out and goes after the honeymooners themselves.  We will have that part of the story.

Plus, a new FBI investigation into another crime that occurred on that ship.  Was it connected?  We will talk about that and more.

But, first, here‘s the latest news you and your family need to know. 

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  A battle royal last night on late-night TV.  I will give you my take coming up. 

Plus, if you want to know the real inside scoop on what is going on in Washington, ask the woman they call the Wonkette.  She is going to be here tonight live.  You‘re not going to want to miss that.

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We are going to be talking about those stories in just minutes. 

But, first, tomorrow marks six months since George Smith IV disappeared from his honeymoon cruise.  And his family and many others believe that he was murdered on the ship.  But, tonight, we‘re learning new information about an FBI investigation into the men who were with George the night he disappeared. 

In an interview with MSNBC‘s Dan Abrams, the captain of the cruise ship says some of the men with George were kicked off the ship. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE ABRAMS REPORT”)

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  And a few days after George Smith went missing, those same young men...  

MICHAEL LACHTARIDIS, RETIRED ROYAL CARIBBEAN CAPTAIN:  Right. 

ABRAMS:  ... were accused of raping...

LACHTARIDIS:  Well this is...

ABRAMS:  ... a woman on the boat? 

LACHTARIDIS:  ... this is under investigation, I cannot say more about this. 

ABRAMS:  They were kicked off the boat, weren‘t they?

LACHTARIDIS:  Yes, they were kicked off the boat.

ABRAMS:  Why did you decide to kick them off the boat?

LACHTARIDIS:  Because this was—this accusation too much now.  I mean, you have like pre-warning.  You have a warning and then you cannot hold them any more.  That‘s it.

(CROSSTALK)

LACHTARIDIS:  Even the Italian police, they say that for them was not a case.

ABRAMS:  What do you mean?

LACHTARIDIS:  Was not a rape case for them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Now let‘s bring in maritime attorney Jack Hickey and also former Connecticut prosecutor Susan Filan.

Thank you all both for being with us. 

Jack, what‘s your take on this captain coming out and not only talking about these Russians that were kicked off the ship, but also going into details about the honeymooners and seeming to blame Jennifer for a lot of the things that went on, you know, her being found upstairs, and apparently trashing both of these young people? 

JACK HICKEY, MARITIME ATTORNEY:  Well, I think it‘s interesting, Joe.  And you have to take into account the fact that Royal Caribbean is offering up the captain for interview, and there must be a reason for that.  You know, there must be a reason for that.  I of course wonder how was he prepared?  Who did he talk to?  Did he talk to the lawyers for Royal Caribbean before he went on?  So I have those questions.  The second thing is...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Wait.  You say you have those questions.  Do you really have any doubt that this captain talked to Royal Caribbean? 

HICKEY:  No, I don‘t.  I don‘t have that doubt.  It would be interesting to hear him say it.

But the other thing—and I just heard something that I did not see before in the transcript, and it‘s very interesting what he said.  He said when he was asked about, hey, did you throw—when Dan asked him, did you throw these guys off the ship, he said, yes, we did, something like, we had too much on them now, something like that.  I‘m not quoting it verbatim, but he said something like that, as if—and I don‘t know—but from what he just said, I‘m taking it that he suspected that maybe they were involved in the George Smith incident and then had evidence that they were involved, these Russians were involved in the alleged date rape that we have heard about. 

So, I‘m thinking—and I‘m just—I‘m summarizing or I‘m gleaning from the couple of statements that we just heard—that maybe—that he had both of these things together, despite Royal Caribbean‘s sort of implication that, hey, maybe that was an accident. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

HICKEY:  Maybe George Smith just fell over. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  So this captain is actually piecing the two together, like you said. 

And he‘s certainly—if he was thinking this was the final straw, connecting the first incident with the second, he‘s certainly not thinking that George just threw himself off the ship. 

HICKEY:  That‘s right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But the captain also had some interesting things to say about where he said Jennifer Hagel was the night that George disappeared.  Listen to that. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE ABRAMS REPORT”)

LACHTARIDIS:  She—corridor on deck nine, far from her cabin.  And then they escort her to her cabin...

ABRAMS:  She was literally sleeping in the middle of the hall?

LACHTARIDIS:  Sleeping in the hall, yes.

ABRAMS:  Sleeping meaning she was drunk?

LACHTARIDIS:  I don‘t know.  She was sleeping.  They were found here asleep.  So and then the report say that they took a wheelchair to bring her to the cabin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  And this is what Jennifer Hagel told me about that night. 

Well, actually, you know, before we do that, Susan, let me ask you why you think Royal Caribbean is coming out now, having the captain coming out, presenting these details about Jennifer Hagel sleeping in the hall? 

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST:  Well, I think it‘s very interesting, Joe. 

I‘m suspicious about the timing of it, certainly after you had Jennifer Hagel Smith on your show and did your exclusive interview with her.  I‘m wondering if they‘re just coming under too much heat.  And, certainly, your show has put a lot of attention on this.  We know that Congressman Shays has gone to Capitol Hill to try to get some legislation to bring attention to people and try to change the way cruise ships operate, which is pretty much autonomously, sometimes irresponsibly and certainly in this case I think problematically. 

So, for him to be coming forward now I think is very interesting.  But the bottom line is what he is saying corroborates what sources close to law enforcement have been saying from day one.  Jennifer Hagel Smith wasn‘t in the cabin when George and the two Russians and the California teen went back to escort him, when he was too drunk to get in the cabin himself.

And law enforcement sources have also said that she wasn‘t in the cabin because she was passed out somewhere on the cruise ship.  So, the captain is essentially corroborating what we know from sources close to law enforcement. 

The only difference—and I think you‘re going to get into this more a little bit later—is, it seems that the captain is alluding to this much more an as accident, rather than foul play.  And that‘s where these stories diverge.  And that‘s why I think the timing is pretty suspicious.  I think Royal Caribbean is getting a little bit scared now and is trying to put their own spin through the media to try to pull back some of the very negative publicity that‘s been generated by them because of their own actions.  It‘s their own fault. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And what about this new crime, again, that they‘re talking about?  What‘s the significance about these Russians that allegedly were suspected of this date rape crime? 

FILAN:  Again, Joe, this corroborates exactly what sources close to law enforcement have been saying all along.  The Russians were implicated in the disappearance the night before. 

The very next day, a very serious allegation of gang rape is made by a young woman.  And who‘s involved?  Who is at the center of this controversy?  Again, it‘s the Russians.  And this was videotaped.  The fact that the Italian police didn‘t let her continue with the complaint or that she recanted, we don‘t know which it is.  We do know that she did recant.  She did rescind her complaint.

It may be because the Italian authorities told her she didn‘t have a case.  Whatever.  That‘s really not what is significant here.  What is significant here is, the night before, George disappears.  The next day, the Russians are at the center of a very serious controversy surrounding the gang rape of a young woman. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Jack, again, the cruise industry, for a very long time, have been accused of trying to sweep these type of crimes under the table.  Do you think there‘s a connection here? 

HICKEY:  Well, yes. 

I think there‘s a connection here, exactly.  And, you know, the FBI‘s statement—and I have that right here—from Congressman Shays‘ hearing says that, in the last five years, there‘s like 303 crimes like this, the overwhelming majority of which being sexual assault and physical assault on cruise ships. 

And that‘s just what the cruise lines has reported to the FBI.  And they did that, they do that because, basically, the passengers, in certain situations, are going to go to the FBI anyway.  But, yes, absolutely that‘s what‘s being done here.  They‘re trying sweep it under the carpet.  But, again, I say the statement of the captain is an implicit admission that there is a connection in his mind between the George Smith incident and the subsequent date rape, which means that Royal Caribbean really does not think it‘s an accident. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly. 

(CROSSTALK)

HICKEY:  And that is the bottom line. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  That is the bottom line.  And that‘s what I think is going to be significant as we move forward on this case. 

(CROSSTALK)

FILAN:  Exactly. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Susan, thanks for being with us.  We got to go, unfortunately.

Jack, thank you.  We‘re going to be here tomorrow.

HICKEY:  Thank you, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Because we‘re going to respond to Dan‘s interview that we‘re going to have on “The Today Show” tomorrow morning and also on “THE ABRAMS REPORT” tomorrow night. 

And, of course, tomorrow night on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, we will be doing a lot more on this case and be asking what the cruise line is up to. 

I‘m joined right now by Tucker Carlson, host of the “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON,” to see what Tucker is up to tonight.

Tucker, what‘s the situation, buddy? 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON”:  Well, Joe, we have got the latest, of course, on the condition of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.  His death could mean a major change, I think, in the situation in the Middle East. 

And we are also going to have, of course, the latest on what happened last night in West Virginia, the tragedy. 

We are also going to tell you new developments in the case of Jack Abramoff, the sleaze merchant lobbyist who looks like he is headed to prison.  All the people around him are going to be implicated in this, including some of your old colleagues on the Hill, some former friends of mine in Washington, supposed conservatives who wound up selling out their principles for the sake of money.  All of them, this whole group poisoning Washington right now is on its way to the pokey, or at least some of them are.  We are going to celebrate that with Pat Buchanan.

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, and it should be celebrated.

CARLSON:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks a lot, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Thanks, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  And I‘ll tell you what, friends.  The biggest disgrace is that of course we Republicans came in 1994 to change the environment of Washington, D.C.

CARLSON:  That‘s exactly right.  That‘s exactly right.

SCARBOROUGH:  And, unfortunately, Tucker, it looks like we just became part of the program.

CARLSON:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks a lot.

CARLSON:  Thanks.

SCARBOROUGH:  And make sure you tune in to “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON,” coming up at 11:00.

Now, when we come back, Bill vs. Dave, my thought on last night‘s battle royal.

And her Web site is the place to find all the scoop on Washington. 

The Wonkette is here live to talk about her new book, “Dog Days.” 

And that‘s not the Wonkette.  I don‘t know why we keep showing that picture from “IMUS” this morning, but we will figure that one out in the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  If you missed last night‘s late-night show down, we have got a clip for you.  Two heavyweights, David Letterman, one of our favorite guys in the world, and Bill O‘Reilly, they went jaw to jaw on “The Late Show” last night.  And I‘ll tell you what.  I wasn‘t amused.  Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN”)

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST:  I‘m very concerned about people like yourself, who don‘t have nothing but endless sympathy for a woman like Cindy Sheehan, honest to Christ. 

(APPLAUSE)

BILL O‘REILLY, HOST, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:  No, I‘m sorry. 

LETTERMAN:  Honest to Christ.

O‘REILLY:  No way—no way you‘re going to get me—now way that a terrorist who blows up women and children...

LETTERMAN:  Do you have children?

O‘REILLY:  Yes, I do, and the same age as yours.

O‘REILLY:  No way a terrorist who blows up woman and children is going to be called a freedom fighter on my program.

(APPLAUSE)

LETTERMAN:  I‘m not smart enough to debate you point to point on this, but I have the feeling—I have the feeling about.

O‘REILLY:  You...

(CROSSTALK)

LETTERMAN:  I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap, but I don‘t know that for a fact.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) 

LETTERMAN:  I don‘t think that you represent an objective viewpoint.

O‘REILLY:  But you have to give me an example, if you‘re going to make those statements.

LETTERMAN:  Well, I don‘t watch your show, so that would be impossible.

(LAUGHTER)

O‘REILLY:  Then why would you come to that conclusion?

(APPLAUSE)

O‘REILLY:  Then why would you come to that conclusion, if you don‘t watch the program?

LETTERMAN:  Because of things that I have read, things that I know.

O‘REILLY:  Oh, come on.  You‘re going to take things that you‘ve read? 

You know what they say about you?  Come on.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, the thing is, listen, Bill O‘Reilly and I, we come from different places.  I‘m a Southern guy.  He‘s a tough Long Island guy. 

Yes, sometimes, he can be tough.  He can be abrasive.  He does things that I don‘t do on my show.  But I‘ll tell you this.  He goes out and he tells it the way he sees it. 

David Letterman comes—invites him on his show.  And, again, you know how much I love Letterman, if you ever watch this show.  And Letterman does what liberals have always accused conservative Christians of doing, and that is criticizing a movie or a book or a TV show that they have never seen themselves. 

Well, that‘s exactly what David Letterman did last night, and what hyperbole.  “I believe 60 percent of what you say is crap”? 

And just his demeanor.  Again, I—I love Letterman, but he was so angry last night, so out of control.  And talking about Cindy Sheehan—I wrote it down here—he kept saying, you know, for Christ‘s sake, for Christ‘s sake, why can‘t you be nice to Cindy Sheehan.

Cindy Sheehan has, again, compared terrorists to freedom fighters.  She‘s basically compared Israel, the state of the Israel, to terrorists.  I mean, how can you not be critical of that? 

And David Letterman, again, talking about things that he just doesn‘t understand, it makes me miss stupid human tricks, stupid pet tricks.  And I think—again, I have been a huge Letterman fan my whole life.  I have been a huge Johnny Carson fan.  I never, ever saw Johnny Carson act the way that David Letterman acted last night. 

And I think it‘s unfortunate.  If he‘s going to criticize O‘Reilly, at least he needs to watch “The Factor” once. 

Now, when we come back, she is known as the Wonkette.  And now this Washington insider is trying her hand at fiction.  It‘s not fiction.  She has just changed the names to protect the not so innocent.  She‘s here tonight to tell us all about “Dog Days” when we return, Ana Marie Cox. 

Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Ana Marie Cox—or Ana, as we say in the Redneck Riviera—better known online and inside the beltway as the blogger known as Wonkette, chronicles the scandals and inside politics of Washington.  Now she‘s trying her hand at fiction.  Her new novel, “Dog Days,” is a sexy look at the fictional love lives of Washington campaign staffers. 

She joins me now. 

Thank you so much for being here.  And I will just call you Wonkette. 

ANA MARIE COX, WONKETTE.COM:  Wonky.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, I remember reading “The New York Times” story a couple of years back about you.  And that‘s how I found out about your blog, which is really—it is a sensation.  It‘s been a sensation in Washington, D.C. 

Why do you—why did you take the jump from that, talking about the Soviet Safeway, to this, to fiction? 

(LAUGHTER)

COX:  Someone wrote me a very large check. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Good reason.  Good reason.

(LAUGHTER)

COX:  No, I think, actually, there are some truths about Washington that have to be represented in fiction. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

COX:  I think you and I were both at the Democratic Convention.  And the book actually opens at the last night of the Democratic Convention.  I don‘t know if you were at the same exact party that I was at, but I‘m sure you were at one very similar. 

The last night of the convention, it was the “Star Wars” cantina, like all the freaks. 

(CROSSTALK)

COX:  Just like these—the famous people, not so famous people, famous for D.C.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And let‘s just say this for the record.  Republicans at conventions are freaks, just like the Democrats in Boston.  They‘re all freaks.

COX:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m a freak.  Freaks go to these things.

COX:  Yes.  Let your freak flag fly, please.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly. 

COX:  I think that—it‘s true that I—this book happens to be about a Democratic campaign.

But I think now, knowing more Republican staffers and knowing a little bit more about how Bush-Cheney went, it really could be about either side. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You know they‘re dorks.  Republicans are dorks, too.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  But...

COX:  Well, they‘re the same.

I think everyone gets caught up.  What this book is really about is about how, during campaign season, it‘s like everyone goes through a second puberty.  There‘s just like all this testosterone and sex and alcohol in the air, and people feel like they can get away with anything and they will live forever. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Except, of course, on our campaigns. 

COX:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  None of that at all, none of that at all.           

COX:  I‘m sorry.  Right. 

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  The reviews have just been remarkable.  Christopher Buckley. 

Talk about the review that he gave you.  I‘m sure you have all the quotes memorized, but just—just says, this is a fantastic book. 

COX:  Well, the words that really leap to mind, I think smutty was my favorite. 

(LAUGHTER)

COX:  Smutty, yes, well-written.  I don‘t know.  He‘s—my favorite line, actually, is that he thinks that the lead character sounds like a smart and more self-knowing Maureen Dowd.  And he likes Maureen Dowd. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK.

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  So, what is it about Washington?  What is it about what you do day in and day out and what you chronicle in here that makes the city so unique? 

COX:  Well, I have said this before, but I don‘t think the metaphor gets tired, which is that it‘s a town that is a lot like high school. 

People are very—it‘s a big John Hughes movie.  People are very concerned at what table they sit at and who their friends are and what the last person said about them and what—it‘s almost like they have the slam books and the lockers, where you write nasty things about each other.  Only, I guess, blogs and, I don‘t know, “Reliable Source” would be the modern equivalent.

But I‘m really fascinated by that combination of power and paranoia, of ambition and insecurity. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And where you are on the pecking order.  That‘s what it is all about, isn‘t it?

COX:  Everyone cares so much about that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Where are you?  And that‘s—and until you get out of Washington, you really don‘t realize how strange of a town it is in that area. 

COX:  And it‘s unlike other cities, in that it really does have just this one industry. 

Everyone is involved.  Like, everyone—the permanent government.

SCARBOROUGH:  Right. 

COX:  Which includes not just people who work for the government, but people who write about the government. 

And they are the people who rank their social status—it doesn‘t depend—it doesn‘t matter who‘s in power in the administration.  It matters like the last good thing someone said about you, the last favor you did somebody. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right.  And a lot of people are saying good things about that.  That‘s our segue to break.

Thanks for being with us, Ana Marie Cox.  Greatly appreciate it. 

The book is “Dog Days.”  It‘s just screaming up the Amazon.com best-seller chart.

Thanks for being with us.  Great to see you again.

COX:  Thanks.

SCARBOROUGH:  We will be right back in a second. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s all the time we have for tonight.  “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” starts right now. 

And Tucker‘s, of course, going to be talking about the latest situation, not only in West Virginia, a terrible tragedy, but he is going to be talking about what‘s unfolding in Washington, D.C., right now with the Jack Abramoff scandal. 

And like Tucker and I talked about just a few minutes ago, what makes that situation so terrible is, we Republicans were going to come to Washington, D.C., to clean it up in 1994.  Unfortunately, I think it‘s dirtier than it‘s ever been, and we are going to find that out with the Jack Abramoff scandal. 

Let‘s go to Tucker Carlson right now to get the situation. 

Tucker, what you got?

CARLSON:  Thanks, Joe.  It‘s its own kind of tragedy.  You‘re right.                                                                       

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