Guest: Dana Milbank, Tom O‘Neil
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The CIA leak indictment. It not only says Libby on the label, it also says top secret. Why Scooter wants to keep part of the trial out of the public eye.
The new White House Katrina scandal. September 1, the president says, “I don‘t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees,” yet Homeland Security predicted to the White House that the levees might break four hours before the storm even hit.
Speaking of warnings, Oprah Winfrey‘s producers got one about the rehab parts of “A Million Little Pieces.”
And speaking of that number...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At least a million of the subscribers in the coming year are probably related to Howard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The hype may have stopped, but Howard Stern has not.
This will never stop. Another story my producers are forcing me to cover. Who cut the Katie Holmes sex scenes out of her new film, Tom? Michael Musto with answers.
And before we all go crazy over the pictures of Jack Abramoff with the president—Dana Milbank, perhaps this will refresh your memory.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
The CIA leak investigation, Plamegate, has roared back into the headlines, not because of the trial of the indicted White House aide Scooter Libby and the fact that it‘s scheduled to begin a week from Friday, but rather because of his efforts to change that schedule.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, the government insists it has the right to review your e-mails or phone calls, but Mr. Libby insists you should not have the right to hear about all the evidence in his trial, because he wants to introduce into the record classified material.
Only days after the lawyers for the vice president‘s former chief of staff told a federal judge they want to subpoena journalists and news organizations for documents that might be related to the leak of a CIA operative‘s name, they were back in court, requesting to use classified evidence at Libby‘s trial.
While the specifics of the filing themselves remain secret as well, this much we do know. Libby‘s lawyers have hinted they will want to disclose to a jury the nature of what the operative, Valerie Plame, did at the CIA, and that has created, as described today by the Associated Press, quote, “a highly secretive court process that could bog down the case.” You think?
Case in point, more than four years after the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person thus far charged in this country in connection with the September 11 attacks, he has yet to go on trial, fights over classified information repeatedly delaying that prosecution.
All of which kind of makes one wonder what would really happen should the Feds actually arrest anyone targeted as the result of the NSA domestic spying program, today being day two of the Bush administration‘s massive effort to sell that program to a wary public, an increasingly wary public.
Carrying the torch today, the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, a key part of his argument that critics and news reports have misled Americans about how extensive the surveillance program really is.
And also there‘s this, it‘s plenty legal. More than a dozen students in the audience at Georgetown University today, some of them in black hoods, turning their backs on Mr. Gonzales in silence as he spoke, their wariness reflected in the latest polling from Gallup for “USA Today.” Although still sharply divided, 51 percent responding now saying the administration was wrong in wiretapping without a court order, only 46 saying -- 46 percent, rather, saying right. Two weeks ago, the right-wrong split was reversed.
Time now to call in “Washington Post” national political reporter Dana Milbank.
Good evening, Dana.
DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:
OLBERMANN: A lot of ground to cover tonight. Let‘s begin not with those photos, but with the maneuvering legally in the Scooter Libby case. If politics was football—and we can pretend for a moment the Washington Redskins are still in it, if that helps—would the refs need to call the Libby defense team on a—on some sort of delay-of-game penalty?
MILBANK: I don‘t think so. I think you should look at it more of a coach‘s challenge. I mean, the delay of game would assume that Scooter would benefit in some way from stalling this. Now, it‘s possible it could get stalled beyond the 2006 elections, but it still stays in the news. And then you plant it right out there in time for the 2008 elections.
So it‘s really a case of him trying to challenge the rules of the game here, hoping for a reinterpretation by the judge, or the referee, if you will, to try to allow the admission of information that will make his case a little bit stronger.
OLBERMANN: But if we‘re talking—I mean, I‘m not—no one‘s going to suggest that the level of secrecy of the material he wants is on that of the Moussaoui prosecution, but it—does it—how much of it—what sort of percentage parallel does it have to be to perhaps postpone the Libby trial past the 2008 elections? That‘s two and a half years, right?
MILBANK: Can you imagine how many COUNTDOWN episodes we could do between now and then?
OLBERMANN: We‘ve been through things like this before.
MILBANK: Look, it‘s anybody‘s guess. We‘re going to be in court, or at least, I should say, Scooter‘s going to be in court next week. And we‘re going to get a pretty good indication from the judge right there, based on the questioning of where this thing is going.
Now, it‘s not in the administration‘s interest, it‘s not in Scooter Libby‘s interest, it‘s not in Fitzgerald‘s interest to keep this going too terribly long. It‘s certainly not in the journalists‘ interests who are going to be dragged back in as witnesses in this.
OLBERMANN: Let‘s move on to the fallout over these still-unreleased but hinted- at photographs of the president and the lobbyist Jack Abramoff together. The White House position regarding Abramoff has kind of evolved in the last few weeks or weeks. They do not really know each other. It was that. Now it‘s closer to, it isn‘t that hard to get your picture taken with the president.
If that latter is the case, why not release the photographs themselves? Why not get ahead of the story and just get them out there and put your spin on them as they are released?
MILBANK: Well, because then, Keith, instead of running this B-roll of Abramoff walking down the street or marching around in his fedora, you‘re going to be running that shot of the president standing there grinning with Jack Abramoff. So there‘s no question that it will be used in campaign ads against him, and for all sorts of nefarious purposes.
Now, this is the same sort of thing that went on with the Clinton and the Lincoln Bedroom issue. There‘s all kinds of people who are trucked through the White House who get pictures. Now, have to remember, Jack Abramoff was a Pioneer, meaning he raised more than $100,000 for Bush. So he got a lot of VIP receptions. There‘s a lot of gripping and a lot of grinning there. And this could obviously—whatever the real reason behind it, could look very bad.
OLBERMANN: You‘re saying, basically, that in terms of photography, any Tom, Dick, and Dana can get their picture taken with the president.
We kind of alluded to this in the opening of the program. We need to make good on this. What are we to make of these following photographs? We‘re calling this one Men in Black. Interested to know what it was you won here, the—then there‘s the annual Milbank Christmas card series, you and the president, both joined by your better halves. No Santa hat. Two of them, two very nice photographs.
And then also there‘s the—yes, the—instead of where was Waldo, it‘s where‘s Dana and where‘s W. in this? What‘s with the photographs here?
MILBANK: Well, Keith, I‘m really not at liberty to say the true reasons behind this. And surely, I did a small amount of fundraising for the president, but I ...
OLBERMANN: It‘s the influence peddling again.
MILBANK: They‘re—this poor guy has something—I think there‘s something like 21 different holiday parties each December. He has to sit there in each one of these, stand there for a couple of hours and just shake hands time after time. He gets briefed beforehand, so he has to sort of rehearse.
So he actually will remember things about a story you‘d written, something about your wife, about your kids. He‘s very good at this. There‘s this whole rigmarole with the camera set up, with the military people to call out who‘s coming, so he can prep for himself for this.
This is perhaps the least attractive obligation of being the president, but—and certainly one of the very least attractive parts is having that particular holiday party for the journalists, who go out and hound you all year long, and then we all have to make nice and smile there at the end.
OLBERMANN: And he buys you dinner.
The last thing, you mentioned this endless videotape of Jack Abramoff. We need to ask now how well you know Jack Abramoff, because, again, that fedora footage reveals at the end—I seem to recognize that gentleman coming through there. Are you—are you Zelig from the Woody Allen film? Or are there photos of you and Jack Abramoff and President Bush together?
MILBANK: I‘m working on all of these things, Keith. In fact, I managed to land myself in “The New York Times” on A-18 with Alito last week.
I‘m considering—and I‘d like to make this offer tonight—if Halliburton or Pfizer or anybody would like to do some product placement, I‘ll be willing to wear their tie or their insignia. But that‘s one of the perks of being in this line of work, if you can call it that.
OLBERMANN: Yes, I think we‘re going to have to call in Richard Wolffe to have a—do a story on Dana Milbank, of “The Washington Post,” who will be selling autographed copies of these photos in the lobby at the conclusion of this news hour. Thanks very much, Dana.
MILBANK: Night, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Also on the subject of the NSA spying, and a lot more serious, as a cartoon to a James Thurber cartoon once read, paraphrasing here, Sometimes I get the feeling that your mother and your Uncle Ed are running the government.
In the wake of the unprecedented news conference by the creator of the domestic eavesdropping program, General Michael Hayden, a slight mistake the general made has been revealed. And it‘s hard to tell which is more frightening for those of you in favor of continuing the democracy, the mistake itself, or the general‘s insistence that it was not a mistake.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My understanding is that the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American‘s right against unlawful searches and seizures. Do you use...
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Well, actually, the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure. That‘s what it says.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.
HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But does it not say probable...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the court standard...
HAYDEN: The amendment says...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the legal standard...
HAYDEN: ... unreasonable search and seizure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... the legal standard is probable cause.
HAYDEN: Just o be very clear—and believe me, if there‘s any amendment to the Constitution that employees of the National Security Agency are familiar with, it‘s the Fourth. And it is a reasonableness standard in the Fourth Amendment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: To quote the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States in its entirety, the one the general and the NSA folks are so familiar with and know is about reasonableness and not about probable cause, quote, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Well, maybe they have a different Constitution over there at the NSA.
The constitutional stylings of Judge Samuel Alito, one step closer tonight to a Supreme Court seat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seven seconds, no nos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Aye.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Leahy?
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Kennedy?
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D-MA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Monitoring election, part of our government...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The Senate Judiciary Committee approving his nomination today on a party-line vote, 10 to eight, what appears to be the first strictly partisan committee vote on a Supreme Court nominee in 90 years. The nomination now heads to the full Senate, no Democrat there yet threatening a filibuster, Judge Alito‘s supporters predicting today he‘ll get at most 60 votes, picking up a handful of Democrats.
Within two hours of today‘s votes, the judge was back on Capitol Hill, helping his cause, meeting with senators, in fact, getting the autograph of Senator Jim Bunting of Kentucky, formerly a pitcher for his favorite baseball team, the Philadelphia Phillies.
Also tonight, two confirmations of a different kind. Missed warnings for the Bush administration. Hours before Katrina hit, Homeland Security predicted the levees would fail. Why, days, later, did the president say no one anticipated that the levees would fail?
And for the Oprah Winfrey show a confirmation as well. Before “A Million Little Pieces” was touted as a pick for Oprah‘s book club, addiction experts said they warned producers that James Frey‘s story could not possibly be true.
Details ahead. You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: You know how, in many parts of this country, even though there‘s only one delivery system for electricity or natural gas, you can still choose which of several companies are going to supply your electricity or natural gas.
Our number four story on the COUNTDOWN, if a man could develop something like that for government, he might become a billionaire, because if more than one federal bureaucracy had to compete for your tax dollars, you‘d probably never see mind-bending sagas like these two tonight.
We hear so much about how we hear so little about the reconstruction of Iraq. Tonight, a government document telling of how we misspent $25 billion doing that. We heard so much from the president about how nobody could have foreseen the levee breaks in New Orleans after the hurricane. Tonight, two reports showing that FEMA and Homeland Security fully foresaw just that disaster in the 48 hours before Katrina hit.
We‘ll review the Iraq fiasco in a moment. First, the New Orleans version, from our correspondent Chip Reid.
CHIP REID, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hurricane Katrina was just hours from hitting land when the Department of Homeland Security e-mailed an urgent report to the White House situation room. “Katrina,” it said, “will likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching, leaving the New Orleans metro area submerged for weeks or months.”
Despite that warning, this was President Bush just three days later.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don‘t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.
REID: A White House spokesman said today the president was only referring to the fact that the worst-case scenario did not happen. But critics, mostly Democrats, say the report, released by a Senate committee today, is the clearest evidence yet that the Bush administration‘s response to Katrina was unacceptably slow and confused.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Why was the president of the United States left to uninformed...
REID: The committee today also released an analysis by FEMA comparing Katrina to Hurricane Pam. As previously reported by NBC News, Pam was a fictional hurricane created for a planning exercise in 2004. Analysts concluded Pam would flood New Orleans, displace a million people, and kill as many as 60,000.
And Katrina could be even worse, according to the FEMA report issued two days before Katrina struck.
SEN, SUSAN COLLINS ®, VERMONT: Pam should have been a wakeup call that could not be ignored.
REID: The Hurricane Pam study was far from finished when Katrina came ashore. Evacuation plans were only 10 percent complete, leading one official to warn last summer, “If you think soup lines in the Depression were long, wait till you see the lines after a New Orleans hurricane.”
(on camera): A FEMA official said today the Hurricane Pam study should have led to a better response to Katrina. But he added that state and local officials have primary responsibility, not the federal government.
Chip Reid, NBC News, the Capitol.
OLBERMANN: “We don‘t protect, we can‘t rebuild. It almost looks like a spoils system between various agencies.” That from a military spending expert in a taxpayers‘ group, reading the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction‘s own report of how to spend $25 billion without really concentrating.
Here‘s Andrea Mitchell in Washington.
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A $25 billion reconstruction program bogged down by bureaucratic infighting, mismanagement, and spiraling security costs.
The auditors found chaos, high rates of personnel turnover, bottlenecks that slowed down contracting, multiple agencies with overlapping authority. The result, billions of dollars squandered, and many Iraqis still lacking basic services—water, sewage, electricity.
Steve Ellis, from a nonpartisan taxpayer watchdog group.
STEVE ELLIS, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: Projects have taken too long, they‘ve cost too much, and they haven‘t actually been constructed in some cases. And some of this with Iraqi oil money that we‘ve wasted, and some of it is federal tax money that we‘ve wasted.
MITCHELL: And just today, another audit released covering south-central Iraq says more than 2,000 contracts were poorly managed, worth more than $88 million.
Much of this when Paul Bremer was the U.S. administrator in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, even before last year‘s dramatic escalation in violence. But in a recent interview with Brian Williams, Bremer blamed the failures on the insurgency.
PAUL BREMER, FORMER IRAQ ADMINISTRATOR: My biggest regret was not being able to do more on economic reconstruction, largely because we hadn‘t been able to do as much as we wanted on security.
MITCHELL: Last month, the president ordered the U.S. to focus on smaller, more manageable projects. Officials also say they have completed 1,636 projects, more than half.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, the president has pointed out that we have learned some lessons, and we have had to adjust our reconstruction efforts.
MITCHELL (on camera): The report confirms that a big part of the problem was rivalry between the State Department and the Pentagon over who was in charge. One official said, At times, it was like the shootout at the OK Corral.
(voice-over): Tonight, U.S. officials are still blaming each other, and many Iraqis are still waiting for basic services.
Andrea Mitchell, NBC News, Washington.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight here, the medium is the message. Boy, the publicity about Howard Stern just stopped the day after his satellite radio show started. How‘s that show doing?
And a classic robbery move caught on tape. APB on ATMs. Just park it anywhere.
All that and more, ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Back now, and we pause the COUNTDOWN to sip on the spoonful of sugary news that helps the mediciney news go down—dumb criminals, criminals who look dumb, and a dumb criminal who also looks dumb, and a rat snake.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in Fort Worth, Texas. Let me get a sixer, bud, a pack of them EZ-Widers (ph), and -- You can‘t park that here, mister.
What you‘re seeing here is what law enforcement calls a smash-and-grab, two local hoods backing their F-150 through the front of a Quick-Mart (ph) convenience store in hopes of loading the Quick-Mart‘s ATM into the bed of the truck. Only they failed to pull off the pivotal back half of the smash-and-grab and left the ATM behind. Thank you, come again.
The would-be robbers ditched the truck and evaded police. They‘re still on the loose. So if you‘re in the Fort Worth area, be on the lookout for a couple of morons with no money and no truck.
Speaking of dumb crooks, you may remember we recently reviewed the SmokingGun.com‘s top mug shots of 2005. Among their favorites was The Thinker, now likely in The Clinker. The fashion police obviously arrested this guy, the I-heart-midget-porn fellow. And, of course, the gold medal winner of all mug shots, Mr. Can‘t Get Enough of That Huff.
Tonight, the Smoking Gun brings us Ms. Jennifer Brocket (ph), doing her best Stan Laurel impersonation after getting nicked on cocaine possession charges in Tampa. And more importantly, Leonard Farrington (ph) of Broward County, Florida, who, if he beats the violence-related charges, has a Crest White Strips commercial waiting for him when he gets home.
Leonard, good luck, and thank you for getting arrested.
Finally, to the Tokyo Zoo, where a rat snake and a dwarf hamster are living together in awful, awful sin. Last October, zookeepers dropped the hamster into the cage. The snake was supposed to have him over for dinner, so to speak. But the hamster apparently pleaded and begged for his life.
And four months later, these two are the unlikeliest of pals. According to the zoo, this snake only likes eating already-dead, frozen rodents. Yes, it seems hamster, like revenge, is a dish which snakes of taste prefer to eat cold.
The pair have become stars in Japan, coming to symbolize what the Japanese view as the love shared by enemies. Plus, the entire nation is waiting to see when the snake finally eats the hamster.
Just as some of us are awaiting the day Oprah Winfrey throws James Frey under the nearest bus. New allegations that her show was warned well in advance about big holes in the rehab part of the story, “A Million Little Pieces.”
And a Hollywood WAD (ph) unit, or, as they‘re also known, Whodunit, the missing Katie Holmes sex scene. Somebody stole it. Tom?
Details on these stories ahead.
But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, police in the French seaside town of Pleurin-les-Morlais (ph). For more than two years, they have been stumped by a murder there. A woman in her 30s discovered at low tide, her head bashed in. But there were no missing persons reports that matched, there were no leads. So somebody decided to run some cardio—radiocarbon tests on the skeleton, thinking maybe it had not happened recently. Maybe it was a murder from a few decades ago.
Well, kind of right. The tests indicated she was murdered around the year 1453.
Number two, the unnamed man who went into cardiac arrest at a charity dinner in Santa Barbara, California. We‘ll call him Mr. Good Timing. The dinner was at an American Heart Association fundraiser. The place was packed with cardiologists. He is recovering.
Number one, Lassie. She‘s a 13-month-old cattle dog in Queensland, Australia, credited with saving her 90-year-old owner after he fell from his horse and broke his pelvis. She snuggled next to him to keep warn, then ran to his wife and started barking until the woman followed her and rescued him.
What‘s a that, girl? You don‘t believe a word of the story? You think they made it up for the publicity? You‘re a pretty cynical little bitch, aren‘t you, Lassie?
OLBERMANN: Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, allegations of another deliberate bit of deception relating to the controversial book “A Million Little Pieces.” Not this time deception by the author, James Frey, rather by the program that helped launch his tome towards the top of the bestseller list, “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
“The New York Times” reporting today that before Frey ever appeared on Winfrey, the show had been warned by one of its regular guests that “A Million Little” had a number of major accuracies—inaccuracies, rather, specifically about the treatment Frey claimed he received for his addiction, what he called, quote, “the essential truth” of his memoir.
While it‘s not named in the book, the treatment center is widely acknowledged to be Hazelden in Minnesota, but a former counselor for that foundation, the Hazelden Foundation, Deborah Jay (ph) telling the “New York Times” that Frey‘s description of his time there contained incidents that never would happen. Specifically his claim of abuse by other residents, of being made to sleep on the floor, even the claim that a doctor at the center treated his broken nose.
According to Ms. Jay, the center does not even have that level of medical treatment. Ms. Jay also said she called one of Oprah Winfrey‘s senior producers and had a lengthy conversation her concerns before Frey was interviewed. It‘s unclear if Oprah Winfrey herself ever knew about the discrepancies. Her production company telling COUNTDOWN is not going to respond to the allegations.
Joining me now, the senior editor of “In Touch Weekly” magazine and a columnist for the “Envelope,” the “Los Angeles Times” online entertainment guide. Unless they prefer to call it the “Envelope.” Tom O‘Neil. Good evening, Tom.
TOM O‘NEIL, “IN TOUCH WEEKLY” EDITOR: Hey, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Is there is a so-what factor here? Or is there actually some sort of violation of public trust in small letters, if not in capitals?
O‘NEIL: I think it‘s a major violation of trust, from the woman we trust most in this country. I think there are probably no one person we trust more than Oprah Winfrey and we don‘t want that violated because we love this woman and turn to her for guidance about how to get sober, how to lose weight, what to do with our lives. What is most distressing is what Oprah‘s people just told you, the last part of your report there, Keith, that they‘re not going to respond to this.
Well, probably the most shocking allegation of all was not just that this senior producer had been told a month before his appearance on the show that this was—that there were untruths here, but quote, unquote, “it was almost entirely false.” That was what she told them.
OLBERMANN: So here is—assuming that any response that Ms. Winfrey might have at one point, she might cleverly enough retain to her own show, here‘s the cut-to-the-chase question. Every time we turn around this looks like a book of bad fiction. And Oprah Winfrey endorsed this book. Is she approaching the point where she has to throw him under the bus before another revelation about him or about the book winds up in some senses throwing her under the bus?
O‘NEIL: Absolutely. This is her Jayson Blair case. And she‘s got to be like the “New York Times” and cut him loose. Because these latest allegations—well, let‘s back up a second. When the first allegations came out, and Oprah said, look, let‘s forget about that and concentrate on the inspiring message of this book. OK. Good idea, Oprah. Now we find the inspiring rehab process he talked about never happened—and thank goodness. That‘s probably the best thing.
More and more people are stepping forward now and saying thank God this book isn‘t true, because I didn‘t get cleaned up and sober because I didn‘t want that to happen to me in rehab. I don‘t want to get beaten up. So maybe there‘s a blessing here, but when Oprah told us to concentrate on the process of getting sober, even that isn‘t true in this book.
OLBERMANN: I‘m sending you in as Oprah Winfrey‘s public relations advisor. What do you have her do and when do you have her do it?
O‘NEIL: She must answer the question she dodged when you answered today, she must tell us if they knew ahead of time or not. And if she did, apologize and ask forgiveness. This is the kind of spiritual self-seeking that she always reaches out to us to do.
That‘s what makes her extraordinary as a guru. And so if she goes through that process on something this important—remember, this was the second biggest selling book of last year. This book itself is a bible of sobriety to many people. It‘s very important. If Oprah goes through that humbling process herself, I think we can only admire her all the more.
OLBERMANN: The book sales have gone up since this controversy started. Have Oprah‘s ratings gone up since this controversy started?
O‘NEIL: I haven‘t checked the Nielsens, have you?
OLBERMANN: I was just wondering if it worked to her advantage.
O‘NEIL: I would kind of doubt it.
OLBERMANN: We will see. The senior editor of “In Touch Weekly” magazine, Tom O‘Neil, thanks as always for your time tonight, sir.
O‘NEIL: Thanks, Steve.
OLBERMANN: Moving from the queen of daytime TV to the king of all media. For the month before Howard Stern shucked his terrestrial crown, you could not turn on our television about seeing a story about his great gamble going to satellite radio.
The day he debuted he held a news conference live on his own show that drew a bigger crowd of us and lasted longer than your average National Hockey League game. Since then, did the citizens of his kingdom emigrate with him? COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny, our senior Howard Stern correspondent, not counting me, takes a look at Stern‘s success so far with Sirius.
Good evening, Monica.
O‘NEIL: Keith, good evening.
MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: When Stern first announced his move in 2004, Sirius Satellite Radio had 700,000 subscribers. Now they‘re up to 3.3 million. Today we hit the streets trying to find a few. No luck there. But one thing is clear. Even if everyone isn‘t listening, Howard Stern still has our attention.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He‘s kind of wacky.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Free-thinking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He‘s got some, like, nice ladies.
NOVOTNY (voice-over): He may have switched to satellite by Howard is still Howard. And his first two weeks on Sirius have been anything but.
HOWARD STERN, RADIO PERSONALITY: If you listen it our show now we can discuss anything. I was talking to Martha Stewart‘s daughter about (expletive deleted) yesterday.
NOVOTNY: Since announcing his move back in October of 2004, more than 2 million listeners signed up, now shelling out 43 cents a day for what used to be free.
So, do you get what you pay for?
STERN: What this represents this morning is the potential to do anything we want.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it‘s great. Howard has gotten much more relaxed than he used to be. He sounds much happier and things are more free flowing. A lot more fun.
NOVOTNY: Mark Mercer (ph), a Stern fan who‘s been listening and logging every show for ten years on his fan Web site, where he gets 20,000 hits each day. For these devoted listeners, the new Stern is more like the old Stern, before the FCC battles, which they say is a good thing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people I think just expected him to go crazy, cursing every other world. It hasn‘t turned out to be like that. It‘s like his old show but without the censorship.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It‘s been less shocking than expected. Howard is
you know, he‘s asked his staff to swear less.
STERN: We are going to go to new places. And that doesn‘t mean the F word.
NOVOTNY: Industry analyst Tom Watts says 2006 looks promising for Stern and satellite.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we can safely say that at least a million of the subscribers in the coming year are related to Howard.
NOVOTNY: There are reports that some are already pirating his show, recording and posting it daily on Web sites, allowing listeners to hear stern without buying into the service. But clearly more subscribers are on the way, though they won‘t all be buying for Stern.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m definitely in the market for satellite radio, but not for Howard Stern. Not at all. I wouldn‘t pay for Howard Stern.
NOVOTNY: But for the diehards, wherever he is, he‘ll always be Howard.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Outrageous, and I love it. I love it.
NOVOTNY (on camera): Now, in spite of the increase in subscribers, Sirius stock reached a high of almost $8 a share in December. This month they‘re down a couple points, closing tonight at $5.90. So the Stern effect hasn‘t helped the stock price, at least not yet. Of course, it is pay radio, the FCC is not regulating, which means those bleeps you heard in our story came from very own COUNTDOWN censors. I should say censor because it‘s really you.
OLBERMANN: What were those bleeps? What was he asking Martha Stewart‘s daughter about?
NOVOTNY: I‘m not sure. I really didn‘t know what it meant.
OLBERMANN: I‘m thinking it was haute couture and that‘s why we bleeped. Because it sounded dirty. When it really isn‘t.
NOVOTNY: It sounded too fancy for us.
OLBERMANN: COUNTDOWN‘s Monica Novotny, great thanks.
Also tonight, the egg and I. What‘s in it? A dinosaur? Mork? A penguin? Another egg, maybe?
And trouble on the road for Britney Spears. And when help came it was not the auto club.
OLBERMANN: Penguins, noted John Cleese of “Monty Python‘s Flying Circus,” “These comic, flightless, web-footed little bastards, yes, everybody likes penguins.”
Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, we mentioned this story first in the “Newsmakers” segment yesterday, but now there are pictures. Penguin pictures. Jackass penguin pictures.
In case you did not know why they are called jackass penguins, well, there you go. Kyala (ph) and Oscar‘s three month old chick Toga was stolen from the enclosure in a zoo on Britain‘s Isle of Wight just before Christmas and despite a $40,000 reward, there has been no word of its fate. Now the rare pair are pregnant again, laying an egg just last week. This egg you see here. And if you think it seems a little soon after Toga‘s disappearance for his parents to be expecting again, their zookeeper says it‘s actually a survival instinct for the species.
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DEREK CURTIS, AMAZON WORLD OWNER: The mortality rate in the wild for penguins is very high anyway, and after a period of mourning, basically, 14 days after, Oscar and Kyala started to be tappend (ph) and make all the necessary movements to start mating again. They were carrying nesting material and hence we have now got an egg.
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OLBERMANN: Noted camera hogs, you saw the penguins in the back of that shot simply staring as the zookeeper continued to talk. The egg should hatch into a brand new baby penguin in 40 days. If it‘s a male, there are indications zookeepers might honor the disappeared firstborn by naming this one Toga II, or simply “Toga! Toga!”
We move from penguins to another odd species of bird, paparazzi. In our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs,” and for once, they‘re helping not hounding celebrities—or rather helping them while hounding them. Case in point, Britney Spears.
She and her brother, Brian, were struck when her husband‘s Ferrari broke down in the middle of the Pacific Coast Highway. That‘s right. They were stranded on one of the state‘s most densely driven roads. Literally inches away from help. Could they survive?
Before the police showed up and whisked her away, the photogs lent her a hand, as Ms. Spears yammered away on her cell phone, five tabloid photographers shoved the car off the road. And one very skillful shooter there on the right managed to push the car and take photos at the same time. That is multitasking.
If the Britney Spears career projection chart suggested that some day she would be reduced to playing a second or third lead on some show on the WB Network, that chance may have just gotten merged out of existence. The WB Network will combine with UPN, merging into the CW Network starting in September. Where did they get the C?
CBS, which owns UPN and Time Warner which is part owner of WB will own 50 percent of the new network. Among all broadcast networks that air only their own original programs the WB and UPN racked up 30 of the 40 lowest rated shows, based on ratings from last November sweeps. Nineteen of the 20 bottom feeders.
Not clear if they will combine individual shows, for instance, taking UPN‘s “Everybody Hates Chris” and the WB‘s “What I Like” to create a new CW show called, “Everybody Hates What I Like.” Here‘s a new show idea for them. Stories my producer forced me to cover. Who stole the Katie Holmes sex scene from her movie? Michael Musto‘s CSI, next.
But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s three nominees for “Worst Person in the World.” A sports theme tonight.
The bronze, referee John Hampton of college basketball‘s Conference USA, he had just had it the other night with melodramatic basketball coaches, when after a foul call went against his team, University of Houston coach Tom Penders collapsed or pretended to collapse on a heap on the sideline in protest. Hampton called a technical foul on Penders and gave Alabama-Birmingham two free shots. The snag was Coach Penders really had collapsed in a heap on the sideline. He has a heart condition. They wheeled him off on a stretcher.
He‘s OK, but the ref recess did not reverse their call. Runner up, John Kelly, a teacher at Beaver Area Senior High School in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. We think he‘s still a teacher there. It‘s a big Pittsburgh Steelers area, obviously, and Friday was a huge day there, with the Steelers playoff game just 48 hours away.
And when student Joshua Van Noy (ph) showed up in a class wearing a Denver Broncos John Elway jersey, Mr. Kelly called Joshua a “stinking Denver fan,” made him sit on the floor of the classroom and encouraged other students to throw crumpled up paper at him. He felt uncomfortable, said the teacher, and that‘s a lesson, that‘s what the class is designed to do.
So if Mr. Kelly gets fired and banned from teaching for life, will that be his reaction, just a lesson?
But the winner, Barry Bonds. When named last week to the USA team for the upcoming World Baseball Classic, Bonds seemed to be ecstatic about it. Then yesterday he suddenly pulled out of the tournament, off the team, saying, “I can‘t take any chances that might jeopardize my season.” Chances? What chances? Like the Olympic-style testing they‘re going to do of all the players for steroids? Barry Bonds, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”
OLBERMANN: It is every filmmaker‘s dream to present one‘s work at a prestigious festival and for members of the audience to be shocked, stunned and gasping in surprise.
Our number one story in the COUNTDOWN, another my producers are forcing me to cover, unfortunately in this case the audience members doing the gasping were the director and its crew. One of their movies‘ scenes was missing. Not just any old scene, either, but their Katie Holmes sex scene had vanished.
Filmmaker Jason Reitman was in the crowd at the Sundance Festival in Park City, Utah, Saturday night proudly and nervously watching, “Thank You for Not Smoking,” awaiting the audiences reaction to the 12 seconds of hot action between Holmes and actor Aaron Eckhart.
The conspiracy theories flew faster than air kisses when nothing showed up on the screen. Had an agent for a tabloid magazine stolen the images to publish them? Might it have been some religious protest? Maybe a bunch of critics got together to excise the scene. And of course what about that guy?
I‘m joined by “Village Voice” columnist and expert on these things, Michael Musto. Good evening, Michael.
MICHAEL MUSTO, “THE VILLAGE VOICE”: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So the answer they came up with is the scene at the end of the film‘s second reel, but it‘s preceded by a brief fade to black. So when they were assembling the print to play it at the festival, they hit the fade to black at the second reel, the end of it and figured second reel‘s over so they unknowingly cutoff the sex scene and I can barely even keep a straight face while repeating this amazingly convenient explanation.
MUSTO: Yeah. And I want to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.
No, look, what really happened is Angelina Jolie got a hold of the footage and she is putting it in her next movie because you can never get enough sex in an Angelina movie. No, that‘s not even it. What happened is, I hear Keith, the scene actually was there and the audience was so stunned by Katie‘s subtle performance, they didn‘t notice it they were given free Kool-Aid and a sonogram on the way in. Plus they were clobbered over the head.
OLBERMANN: Other possibilities. Other theories here that the projectionists or someone else in a position to address this film might have been a Scientologist.
MUSTO: That‘s possible. And if so he Might be the one trying to cut out Tom and Katie‘s real life sex scenes. But that will never happen. There is too much passion there. When those two get into a room there‘s more heat than, I don‘t know, Oprah and Steadman. I don‘t know what I‘m saying.
OLBERMANN: Can we suddenly have an explanation, by the way, for the relationship with Mr. Cruise if the sex scene lasted 12 seconds.
MUSTO: That‘s all it takes to make a baby, Keith, so I don‘t know what you are implying here.
OLBERMANN: I might be implying that this might all be for somebody a publicity stunt. Do you have a leading suspect on that? Look at the possible people who may have had interest here. Holmes might have done it, Cruise. The maker of the film, Jason Reitman. Is there somebody who has got more of a motivation to get publicity than anybody else?
MUSTO: All of the above, but if this is a P.R. stunt, then you‘re saying that the whole relationship is some kind of bogus construct designed to get media attention without much merit. Yeah. P.R. stunt. You are on to something.
OLBERMANN: My brain appears to be functioning. That‘s what I‘m suggesting. That‘s what everybody else who appears to be able to breathe and convert that breath into some sort of ...
MUSTO: But I didn‘t know this Reitman fellow was a freak, too.
OLBERMANN: Who knows. After this screening he told the audience, Reitman did, what they had missed and the audience moaned, was the description of those in the room. But what were they moaning about? But what did they miss? Do we know? Twelve seconds.
MUSTO: They were orgasming that the scene was cut. They were thrilled. And I actually hear the film studio taped that for the audio version to add to the mix when they restore the scene because Katie, under Scientology, is not allowed to moan or cry or scream. She‘s only allowed to grin like a pinhead and say, “Amazing, amazing.”
OLBERMANN: Or be glib. We have not actually heard much from the gentleman sort of tangentially connected to this story, Tom Cruise lately. Obviously there was a publicist change there. In other words, he fired his sifter and hired a publicist. Has the publicist calmed him down, clamped him down. What‘s going on with him?
MUSTO: I think so. He went from kind of a grinning mystery man under the publicist Pat Kinsley (ph) to a raving maniac, under his sister, what‘s her name, Leann Rimes or something? Now he‘s much less Cruise-azy. He doesn‘t jump the couch anymore. He does his damage and hides. He is much safer to mankind and furniture. And I think he should stick with the new publicist, Paula Adbul.
OLBERMANN: Did I bury the lead here? How did Katie Holmes get a part in the movie that is not this merged UPN network, the CW?
MUSTO: It‘s going straight to UPN, but in any case, she got the part before she met Tom. OK. Since she met Tom she has only gotten stomach cramps and stretch marks, family feuds, public humiliation and she‘s had to throw out the Paxil prescription. Great deal, huh?
OLBERMANN: Do we know about the film? Is it worth my 10, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two dollars, or whatever it is going to cost me when we get it out of places like Park City, Utah.
MUSTO: I hear it‘s a stinging indictment of political correctness. But I don‘t believe that anybody as pregnant as Katie Holmes should be thanking anyone for smoking.
OLBERMANN: A stinging indictment of political correctness? That‘s all we get these days. Everything is a stinging indictment of political correctness.
MUSTO: Usually you get 12 seconds at least of sex. But here ...
OLBERMANN: That‘s the ratio.
MUSTO: A stinging indictment and you go home unaroused.
OLBERMANN: And no sex. What a terrible ratio that is. Michael Musto of the “Village Voice.” As always, more entertaining than the stories he covers.
MUSTO: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Many thanks.
That‘s COUNTDOWN. I‘m Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night and good luck.
Our MSNBC coverage continues now with Rita Cosby, LIVE & DIRECT. Good evening, Rita.
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