updated 1/25/2006 11:10:45 AM ET 2006-01-25T16:10:45

Guests: Katrina Szish, Carmen Rasmusen, Devin Gordon, William Donahue, Ben Shapiro, Richard Walter, Jim Warren, Tom Scocca, Michael Smerconish

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, Oprah in the crosshairs.  “The New York Times” reports that Oprah‘s show was warned that “A Million Little Pieces” was a pack of lies.  Now some are concerned that the stick will shun rehab because of the scandal.

And a movie that calls Jesus a fake, Christianity a fraud and the Catholic Church an organization run by bloodthirsty cults.  Maybe that‘s where Hollywood loves “The Da Vinci Code.”

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

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

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, thanks so much for being with me tonight.  I greatly appreciate it. 

Now, we are going to have all those stories coming up.  And, of course, like I said, the best-selling novel that has sparked outrage in religious circles all the world, now “The Da Vinci Code” is heading to the big screen and some are afraid it‘s going to spread its anti-Catholic message to millions more.  That‘s going to be our showdown tonight, a fascinating book and, I‘m sure, a fascinating movie also.

And another scandal rocking “American Idol.”  We are going to have all the details and ask why is this show such an easy target?

But first, tonight, stunning new accusations in a story that is putting Oprah Winfrey on the offensive.  The controversy surrounding the Oprah-pushed book “A Million Little Pieces” is back in the news.  Now, earlier this month as you know The Smoking Gun Web site claimed that author James Frey‘s book was filled with all kind of lies.  Oprah stood by her man, defending him on national television.

But now “The New York Times” says that Oprah Winfrey‘s staff may have known the book was full of lies before they pushed it.  “The Times” reports today that—quote—“Producers at the program were told by a former counselor at the foundation that runs the Minnesota treatment center reportedly used by Mr. Frey that his portrayal of his experience there grossly distorted reality.”

With me now to talk about the scandal, we have got radio talk show host Michael Smerconish, also Jim Warren from “The Chicago Tribune.”  That‘s Oprah land.  And “The New York Observer‘s” Tom Scocca. 

Let me start with you, Michael Smerconish. 

You actually pushed this book to your audience.  Also tried to get your 17-year-old daughter to read it.  What do you think about the book now?  Are you sorry you did that? 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Absolutely.  I mean, the whole thing is now a fraud. 

And just so your viewers can put this in perspective, Joe, I‘m looking at “The New York Times” book review from last Sunday.  This book is the number one non-fiction best-seller in the country in paperback.  The same author, James Frey, has the number-one nonfiction best-seller in the country. 

And it‘s absolutely outrageous.  And I feel like a schmuck now, for having been taken in by this.  But this is not Jayson Blair.  This is not somebody twisting a couple of facts where nobody gets hurt.  I‘m convinced, Joe Scarborough, that people are getting hurt, people who can ill afford to get hurt, people who are drug addicts, people who have problems with alcohol, who are looking at James Frey as a role model. 

And to those who have read the book, we know that what he does is, he says that he was able to get clean by swearing off the 12-step Alcoholics Anonymous program.  So, I don‘t think it‘s a leap of faith to assume that there are people reading the book and saying, well, if this guy could clean up his act by not toeing the line, then maybe I can as well. 

And that is what was revealed today in “The New York Times.”  Now you have all these professionals who are coming forward and saying what he talked about, Hazelden, this number-one rehab clinic in the country, bears no resemblance to our actual program, and that‘s dangerous. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Jim Warren, now, of course, as the “New York Times” article says, there‘s some people that work in rehab who are saying that they‘re afraid that many may shun going into a rehab clinic like this because of all of this publicity.  Is this problematic for Oprah? 

JIM WARREN, DEPUTY MANAGING EDITOR, “THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  Well, any interesting question, though, that you guys are bringing up—I was talking to my wife tonight and a friend of hers in a book club here in Chicago.  And they just were reading this book. 

And while they all conceded that the writing was pretty poor, apparently, most of the people in the club, thoughtful professionals, had some family member with a drug addiction problem in the present or the past, and did find much of what was in the book in some fashion to be very revealing and helpful. 

Now, this was before all of this stuff hit the fan.  So, I think for sure I mean, it is problematic at this point, particularly for someone like Oprah, who has become sort of our culture‘s apostle of personal recovery and self-transformation.  But she‘s also doing it in a culture which clearly increasingly places less and less value on truth and facts. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tom, Oprah went on “Larry King Live” and basically said she was standing by her man, that it was no big deal, that this book was in the end about redemption.  Therefore, don‘t worry about a few discrepancies.

Can she hold that line as we move forward?

TOM SCOCCA, “THE NEW YORK OBSERVER”:  Well, she may get away with holding that line, because she‘s already moving on to the next book in the book club. 

But based on what I heard from people after I wrote about this, people are not accepting that at all.  The story in “The Times” today just helped underscore the problem with all this, which is that James Frey is trying to say that this is a small part of his memoir, and that the basic story is still true. 

But the basic story is that he was the worst of the worst.  He was a criminal.  He was a fugitive.  He fought with the cops.  He got his face busted up and had to get a root canal without anesthetic, because he was so addicted that the program would forbid him from even having novocaine. 

And if none of that is true, then his prescription for toughing it out and ditching the 12 steps and holding on, as he says, is a dangerous prescription.  That‘s a dangerous bit of advice to give to people who may have problems much more profound than whatever problems he dealt with. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Michael, in the end I think that‘s what‘s most problematic here. 

As Jim said, we all know people that have been addicted to drugs or alcohol.  And certainly all of my friends that have been through that terrible process talk about—all of them seem to go back to this 12-step process that seems to work time and time again.  But this guy, with the help of Oprah Winfrey, basically has put dynamite underneath that and detonated it. 

And, again, like you said, a lot of people could be hurt by this.  So does it in the end hurt somebody, as just huge and powerful as Oprah Winfrey? 

SMERCONISH:  Well, I hope that it does, because her credibility deserves to be taken down a couple of pegs. 

And, Joe, I hope you don‘t mind if I say this on your program.  Larry King was a total patsy for this guy.  It was outrageous.  James Frey comes out of the witness protection program to give King this interview.  King hadn‘t even read the book, didn‘t know what questions to ask. 

And then at the end of the show Oprah Winfrey calls in, and I‘m in my Barcalounger, thinking, OK, Oprah, please take the guy out.  And she refused to do it.

Look, I have got a solution, and, Joe Scarborough, the trial lawyer that you are, this will resonate with you.  Frey says 400 of the 20 pages of the 432 pages haven‘t been called into question.  And what he‘s doing, Joe, is he knows that we can‘t get a look at the records of the in-patient treatment unless he gives an authorization. 

So, here‘s the solution.  James Frey, sign a medical records release.  Your whole book was about your in-patient treatment.  Let the world see exactly what the records show, and then we can put it to bed. 



WARREN:  Yes. 


WARREN:  I only wish this were a matter of fact-finding, guys.

I think the sad—one of the sad commentaries on the culture is that it has now become more important to be interesting than to be right.  And I think even if you disclosed all these medical records, I don‘t think it would be of any great import to too many people in a country where hyperbole and marketing have twinned up to be far more important than any sort of independent fact-finding, which was a sad proposition, particularly for those of us in the newspaper industry who try to do that every day, but find less and less an audience for our wares.

SCOCCA:  Well, the book did go up the list.

WARREN:  So, I really don‘t think even if you fessed up, even if all those records came out, it‘s a society in which people like Oprah are going to claim, oh, there‘s still some basic truths here, even if the details are off. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But, Jim, you know, again, coming from Chicago, you have a better understanding of just how big Oprah Winfrey is, how this organization, how this corporation has grown through the years. 

It seems to me that her operation‘s always been ruthlessly efficient.  And I say that in a very positive way.  But if that‘s the case, then how could it be that one of her senior producers was tipped off before she had this guy on, before she selected the book as the book of the month club, and basically saying that this book is—is—quote—it grossly distorts reality, and, yet, they go ahead and let this guy come on and push these pack of lies?

WARREN:  Well, I don‘t know what happened internally, if they got to Oprah and they passed that news on to her, that claim on to her, and she just swatted it away. 

I just—I simply don‘t know what happened there.  But I do think she has become, again, an apostle of—she‘s become a fixture in a culture, and she has become this sort of apostle for self-transformation.  She saw this book, saw these greater truths in it.

And now, I think rather outrageously, says that she‘s basically immune from any and all criticism.  That said, I also want to throw out maybe the provocative notion that, somewhere in this mix, somewhere in this mix of deceit and lies is a culture which also has a difficult time in dealing with really, really big, successful women. 

I think there‘s no small amount of just plain old Oprah bashing here.  If this book had been associated with any one of a lot of other important cultural figures, don‘t think it would have had quite the same resonance, although I do not for a second defend this guy‘s deceits. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Tom, Oprah said—quote—“This book”—she said this on the air—“This book” is—quote—“all completely true.”

SCOCCA:  Right.  

SCARBOROUGH:  Is she going to be held accountable for that?  Is there any way you hold somebody was powerful as Oprah Winfrey accountable for these type of mistakes, even if she refuses to back down, because, as you say, she‘s on to her next book of the month? 

SCOCCA:  I don‘t know if there‘s a way to hold her accountable or not. 

I don‘t know that I would subscribe to that last theory, that there‘s some degree of bashing of her success in this either.  I think that it‘s bashing her because she has the power to make things happen in the publishing industry. 

And that‘s exactly where she went wrong on the “Larry King” appearance, because when she called into “Larry King,” she tried to have it both ways.  She told Larry King that she blamed the publishing industry for putting out this book without making it clear how much of it was made up. 

But then she said she stood by the author, which is to say she stood by the book, which is to say that she is basically letting defective merchandise stay on the market.  If she were serious about being mad at the publishing industry, and this is not a minor situation with this book—I mean, to claim that this guy is the worst of the worst is what sold the book to her audience, and now she‘s saying it‘s not true. 


SCARBOROUGH:  She can‘t have it both ways.  If you‘re going to attack the publishing industry for putting this book out there, you can‘t then come—come behind that and say...

SCOCCA:  And she has the power to do something about it.

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  Yes—“And I support this book.”

Michael, so tell us, where do you think this story goes from here? 

SMERCONISH:  Well, Oprah Winfrey is not being criticized because she‘s a female.  She‘s being criticized because she made this book the number-one best-seller in the country.  And only she can take it off, if she steps up to the plate.  And that‘s what has to happen now. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Will she do it? 

SMERCONISH:  No, apparently not. 

I think she‘s dug in.  And, you know, Joe, common sense dictates that if she didn‘t know that he was a fraud when she put him on television, when all hell broke loose and when this became such a huge page-one story, you can bet her staff—I mean, imagine what would have happened at MSNBC if you were in that position. 

Of course your staff would have then said, hey, Joe, we got to tell you something.  We‘re hearing from some other people who are experts who have been on the program that this is a pack of lies.  You can‘t dismiss Oprah.  To the contrary, her female status may be what‘s protecting her in all this. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thank you so much, Michael.  We will have to leave it there.

Michael Smerconish, Jim Warren, and Tom Scocca, greatly appreciate you being here. 

And, when we come back, the numbers don‘t lie.  College campuses are overrun with left-wing professors.  That‘s according to several new studies.  And when somebody tries to change the climate, watch out.  We have got the very latest example at UCLA, and we will ask, how can college campuses ever be balanced? 

And, later, “The Da Vinci Code,” will the movie expose millions to what some say is its anti-Catholic message? 

Stick around.  We will be back.


SCARBOROUGH:  It was announced today that “The Da Vinci Code” will head up all the movies that are being shown at the world‘s biggest movie—movie event—movie festival.  Hollywood obviously very interested in “The Da Vinci Code.”  We will tell you about the controversy surrounding the movie when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.


SCARBOROUGH:  College campuses may be more conservative than they were in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, right? 

Well, not even close.  According to two studies, both done by universities, college professors that teach sociology and political science admitted being liberal by a margin of 40-1.  How do you change that kind of climate on campus?  How do you encourage diversity of thought? 

With me to talk about are Ben Shapiro.  He‘s the author of “Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate America‘s Youth.”  And Richard Walter, he‘s a professor at UCLA, where one former student was giving cash to students who offered proof off a faculty bias. 

Thank you so much for being with us.

Professor, obviously these recent efforts to smoke out liberal professors at UCLA has been met by harsh criticism, especially from faculty members, who call it a witch-hunt.  Do you agree it‘s a witch-hunt?

RICHARD WALTER, UCLA DEPARTMENT OF FILM AND TELEVISION:  Well, not only I agree, but a lot of conservatives.

David Horowitz fired this guy, Andrew Jones.  Conservative faculty who had supported him backed away from him when he attempted to violate copyright law.  He also encouraged attempted to suborn perjury.  He encouraged students to make false police reports.  He‘s hardly the authority to determine what‘s happening on college campuses.  There may be some bad classes, just like there are some bad television talk shows, Joe, but...


SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re hurting me here, Richard.  Don‘t get personal now. 

WALTER:  I‘m not.  I‘m not—I love your show, which is why I love to be on it. 


WALTER:  But you and I will both agree there are some that aren‘t as good as this one. 


SCARBOROUGH:  What do you make, Richard, though, of this 40-1 ratio?  This was a Smith College study.  Smith College and University of Toronto came out.

WALTER:  I don‘t buy it. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Said there was a 40-1 ratio in the field of political science, according to Smith at University of Toronto. 

WALTER:  I don‘t buy it.

That‘s one field in—among many, many dozens scores of field, maybe hundreds of disciplines on campuses.  If it tells you anything at all, it tells you that people who are scholarly, who are thoughtful, who are interested in creativity and research also are interested in social issues and are counted as liberals. 

But liberal doesn‘t mean what it used to mean.  Am I a liberal?  I fly the flag every day at my office at UCLA?  Did you know that, Joe.  Also, at home, at my home here at Los Angeles, on national holidays, we fly the flag. 

Is being pro-choice really liberal or conservative?  Is expanding the government and getting it in larger and into people‘s personal lives liberal or conservative?  It just doesn‘t mean a thing.  Last year, there was a vote, Joe, at UCLA among all—among faculty on the war in Iraq, and fewer than 2 percent—fewer than 2 percent voted to oppose the war.  So, I—it just doesn‘t fit with these statistics.  I don‘t buy them at all.


WALTER:  There‘s a book called “How to Lie With Statistics.”

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me bring in Ben Shapiro. 

Ben, I have heard not only from Richard, but also from professors all across America, that this—that these studies that say there‘s a 40-1 ratio, which, quite frankly, lines up with what I saw when I was an undergrad in law school, but that these studies are flawed and don‘t reflect reality.  What do you say? 

BEN SHAPIRO, AUTHOR, “BRAINWASHED”:  Oh, well, I think that the consistency of the studies demonstrates that, if they‘re off, they‘re not off by very much. 

I think that people should probably try and challenge the statistical merit of the studies, rather than just simply stating, well, you know, just because there are statistical studies, that doesn‘t mean anything.

Well, look, it does mean something.  It means something when there‘s a giant imbalance in the political constituency of the professorate on campus.  And every study that‘s come out in the last five, six years—and there have been a number of them—has shown this massive imbalance, and it does carry over to the classroom. 

Look, there‘s a difference between liberal and conservative positions.  If there weren‘t, there‘s no reason for politics.  That being the case, it makes a difference the political constituency of the professorate, because if it carries over into the classroom, they do have the ability to indoctrinate students and to bias their curriculum in order to present a convincing case for one side and avoid a convincing case for the other. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Ben, obviously, I believe, and again, from my own personal experience, I believe that there is a bias against—and it doesn‘t mean I didn‘t love my professors who were liberals who, throughout the entire 1980s...


SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second—who mocked Ronald Reagan, who said Reagan was a war-monger, that Reagan was going to lead us into World War III. 

I learned a great deal from them.  But at the same time, I didn‘t think there was a balance that needed to be there. 

But, Ben, what do we do?  Do we hold a gun to administrators and tell them they have to hire conservatives? 


SHAPIRO:  No, of course not.


SHAPIRO:  And, actually, what I have said many times is that conservative students are not the ones who are really under threat here. 

The people who are under threat are the moderate and liberal students.  A conservative student like me—I had a great time at UCLA.  I‘m having a tremendous time at Harvard Law.  It forces me to come up with really good conservative arguments.  So, I learn a lot. 

What I fear is that moderate and liberal students aren‘t learning a whole heck of a lot from professors who think like they do.  They‘re not forced to come up with good justifications for their side of the issue.  So, you can have plenty of good liberal professors.  I think the way to bring balance is to, number one, take away some—I would be pleased if professors would stop saying ridiculous and stupid things in fields that have no relevance. 

But, at the same time, I would also like to see a professor make an effort at, at least presenting the other side of the argument, even if he wants to say beforehand, look, I disagree with this argument or I‘m going to knock it down afterward.

SCARBOROUGH:  Richard, I agree with Ben.  And I don‘t know if you read the “New York Times” article when John Roberts was—his nomination first came up. 

They said the reason why Roberts learned as much as he learned and was able to articulate his vision of a conservative America and a conservative judiciary the way he was because he was one of the few conservatives at Harvard Law.  And, so, he had to be more on his toes.  He had to be a bit sharper. 

Following up on what Ben is saying, aren‘t conservative and liberal students and moderate students hurt if there isn‘t a diversity of thought on college campuses? 

WALTER:  But, Joe, there is a diversity of thought.  And you survived.

And Ben says he survived what you would call this liberal bias.  I am what you would call a liberal, I‘m sure.  And I thought that Judge Roberts was a good choice for the court.  This Chinese menu of issues that we have to agree with every item in the cluster, and that‘s what‘s damaging.  The truth is that in classes where you‘re exposed to views by professors that you disagree with, that can help you find your own voice, your own methodology, your own style, your own political personality, and your own sensibility. 

Most everybody that I know and that I know of at UCLA and in every college, and I know lots of people at lots of colleges, do what I try to do, which is to air all sides of the issues, to get students to speak for them—to think for themselves.  Sometimes, I will embrace a point of view that I don‘t even agree with, simply to provoke students into thinking for themselves.  That‘s our job.  And that‘s what we do responsibly.


SCARBOROUGH:  We have to go, Richard.  But I just have to ask you a quick question. 

If you were a betting man and I asked you to place a bet on who would win an election between faculty members in the top 50 colleges in America between George Bush and John Kerry, would you even think twice about putting your money down on John Kerry? 

WALTER:  Well, let me ask you what radio talk show hosts would vote or corporate executives would vote. 


SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s not what we are talking about.  We‘re talking about bias on college campuses.  You say you don‘t know if there is bias on college campuses.

I‘m asking you, if you had to place that bet, straight-faced test, as my law professor in torts once told me, would you bet for—put your money on John Kerry or George W. Bush? 

WALTER:  The fact that there‘s a preponderance of Democrats does not mean that there‘s a political bias and a propagandization of students in the way that is described by Mr. Shapiro. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Richard, let me help you, buddy.  Let me help you, buddy. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Take all your chips and pile it up on Kerry, and you will make a lot of money. 

Ben, thanks a lot.

Richard, as always, we greatly appreciate you being on the show. 

And when we come back, “The Da Vinci Code”—I should have talked to Richard about that also—it heads to the big screen.  Is it going to spark as much controversy as the book?  The big question is, what are they going to leave out?  All the parts about Jesus being married, and the church being full of garbage, and the Catholic Church being run by bloodthirsty cults? 

And, later, a national group demanding answers from “Idol” judges. 

The latest trouble for the troubled show coming up. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Look closely and you will see, caught on tape in the Redneck Riviera, a plane making an emergency landing on a road.  We will have that story.  That‘s in my backyard, just a couple miles down the road.  We will have that story and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY runs. 

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


SCARBOROUGH:  Hooters restaurants usually not welcomed with open arms by churches, but one customer is going to be giving his blessing to the racy restaurant.  We will explain later. 

Plus, what happened on “American Idol” that has a group steaming mad? 

Was it an innocent joke or a homophobic slur? 

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Those stories in just minutes. 

But first the controversy comes to the big screen.  Organizers of the Cannes Film Festival just announced that “Da Vinci Code” the movie is going to get its world premiere at the French festival in May. 

Now, the controversial best-selling novel is expected to become the blockbuster movie of 2006. 

And here‘s a look at part of the trailer for “Da Vinci” the movie. 


IAN MCKELLEN, ACTOR:  We are in the middle of a war, one that‘s been going on forever, to protect a secret so powerful that if revealed it would devastate the very foundations of mankind.  Witness the biggest cover-up in human history. 


SCARBOROUGH:  With me now is “Newsweek‘s” Devin Gordon.  He landed an exclusive interview with “The Da Vinci Code‘s” director, Ron Howard, and its star, Tom Hanks, for “Newsweek”‘s cover story on the movie‘s upcoming release.

And let me start, Devin, by just asking you, you got exclusive access to this movie.  Do you have any doubt at all that it‘s going to be one of the biggest blockbusters of 2006? 

DEVIN GORDON, “NEWSWEEK”:  I can see very little chance that it‘s not going to be huge.  I mean, obviously, the movie has to be good in order for it to really deliver.  When 25 million people have already bought and read the book around the world, that‘s a nice head start.  So, I have a feeling it‘s going to do pretty well.

SCARBOROUGH:  Devin, obviously, you remember when “A Beautiful Mind” came out, Ron Howard was blasted by a lot of people for sort of playing fast and loose with the truth regarding Professor Nash‘s life.

GORDON:  Yes.  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  His homosexuality.  Do you think they‘re going to also whitewash out some of the more controversial parts of this book before it makes it to the big screen in America? 


Ron Howard was very elusive about trying to keep the secrets that he does have preserved as much as possible.  But one thing that he was pretty blunt about was that the portions of the book that people consider controversial will be in the movie.

And one of the reasons why is because it‘s pretty hard to take out some of the more controversial elements.  They‘re sort of the backbone of the story.  So there‘s not much you can do about it.

But what he is doing and what the book does not do so much is, he‘s shouting fiction every which way he can turn.  He wants to make it clear that he does not consider this movie to be religious advice, religious guidance, historical guidance.  He considers it a movie, a thriller, something to watch and have fun with, and then go home. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And I have read the book.  And obviously a lot of people were upset when they read the book because it seemed to be trying to skirt fiction and nonfiction. 

GORDON:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Is Howard going to do something at the beginning of the movie to say that it‘s a fictional account of events that happened in the past? 

GORDON:  Well, they haven‘t committed to doing anything along those lines and saying, everything here is fiction, because their take is that it‘s movie. 

It‘s got Tom Hanks in it.  When you see Tom Hanks, you know you‘re not watching a documentary.  You know you‘re watching a movie.  And their belief is that if they just say enough times that this is just a thriller, this is just a movie, people will get the idea. 

As to whether or not they are actually going to put a disclaimer at the beginning, they haven‘t made any commitments about that.  That‘s kind of a last-minute decision.  It doesn‘t take much time to do that.  But we will see what happens.  We will see what they see like the level of real confusion out there is.  But my guess is that they won‘t feel it‘s necessary. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Probably not. 

Hey, Devin, thanks so much.  Greatly appreciate you being here and giving us that insight. 

Let‘s bring in right now William Donahue.  He‘s the president of the Catholic League.  And also with us, MSNBC commentator Flavia Colgan. 

You know, Bill, it‘s kind of hard to clean this movie up.  If you have a movie that says Jesus was married, Christianity is a hoax and the Catholic Church is run by a bloodthirsty sect, I don‘t think there‘s any way you can whitewash it.  What do you think? 

WILLIAM DONAHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE:  Well, I think there‘s a way in which they could alleviate some of the biggest problems that I have. 

I wrote to Ron Howard last year.  I said, listen, I only have one request.  Put a disclaimer in the beginning of the movie saying it‘s a work of fiction, and then I walk away.

Now, what Devin is just saying—and I have heard a lot of reports—he‘s accurate—that Ron Howard is trying to cast this as fiction.  All right, that‘s very helpful.  The problem I had from the beginning is that, on page one of the book, they cite three—quote—“facts,” all of which are nonfactual.

Number one, that there‘s this Priory of Sion, this secret society, was formed in 1099.  As a matter of fact, the secret society is a hoax.  It was invented by an anti-Semitic Frenchman in the 1950s.

Point number two, it says that Opus Dei is a Catholic sect.  That is simply flatly wrong.  It is a mostly lay organization.  Point number three, as a fact, they say the artwork, the architecture and documents are factual.  I don‘t know much about the art and architecture.  I will leave that to others.

But the documents?  Where is the documentation of this preposterous lie, this anti-Catholic smear, that it was invented in 325 by the Council of Nicea that Christ was divine?  So, my question all along has been this.  If you want to cast it as fiction, do whatever you want.  To the extent you want to be deceitful, like the author, Dan Brown, and play both sides of the street, that‘s where you—then you will incur the wrath of Catholic League and indeed of all Christians. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Flavia, what would happen, do you think, if a movie came out and attacked the foundations of Islam or Judaism or other major religions and just said, it‘s a hoax?  Which, let‘s face it, that‘s exactly what this book does. 

Again, I read the book.  It was a very entertaining read.  You can get through it very quickly.  But at the same time the foundation of this book is that Christianity is nothing but a lie. 


Well, first of all, Joe, I have to say I‘m very shocked.  Bill‘s being very reasonable.  I was expecting to come on here and have sort of World War III.  I don‘t know hypothetically what would happen.  As a practicing Catholic, the thing I found most offensive about the book, actually, besides these factoids that he is talking about, is that it portrays Christianity as elitist, which it isn‘t.

I mean, in John, it says anyone who believes in him will have eternal life and shall not perish.  And this book makes it seem like you have to be in some sort of club or be in a bloodline to somehow have salvation in Christianity, which is not true. 

But since Bill wanted to talk about facts, I want to talk about a couple facts that some right-wing Christians are playing loose with, which Bill on this program tonight is not one.

Number one, the movie is fiction.  And everyone is saying that it is fiction.  Number two, none of us have seen this film.  And I know that maybe Ron Howard kept a lot of the things in, but they also took a tremendous amount of time to meet with Catholics and Christians, while working on this movie, to see what adjustments they could make. 

They have hired a Christian marketing firm, for instance, which gives us some clue into what they might be doing.


SCARBOROUGH:  So, Flavia, you think they‘re going to clean it up? 

COLGAN:  Yes. 

No, I mean...

SCARBOROUGH:  You think they‘re going to clean it up?

COLGAN:  They‘re going to clean it up maybe a little bit. 

But here‘s my point to all the Christians that are going crazy about this.  My first point is that tens of millions of people read this in 42 different languages.  A lot of them are Christians.  And we keep talking about how much criticism there was.  There really wasn‘t that much, considering.

Another thing that I would say to those Christians that are very upset about this is, Hollywood puts out tons of smut, tons of movies that have no value.  And for whatever problems they may have with this film, a film that makes people explore their religion, made me, after reading the book, have to learn even more—and this is from someone who studied religion and Gnostic texts in college—and someone where a lot of the stars of the film are Sir Isaac Newton, and Botticelli, and da Vinci, I mean, come on. 

There are far more worse movies coming out of Hollywood to complain about than “The Da Vinci Code.” 

SCARBOROUGH:  Bill, do you think this is going to bring Christians closer to their faith? 


DONAHUE:  Oh, yes.  Come on.  This is a joke.  Come on.

The fact of the matter is, you don‘t have to take my word for it.  You take a look at “The New York Times” last August, a wonderful piece by Sharon Waxman.  She quotes John Calley, one of the co-producers of this movie.  He said that movie is anti-Catholic.

Oh, I‘m sorry.  He said it was conservatively anti-Catholic, as opposed to what, liberally anti-Catholic? 


DONAHUE:  Look, if you‘re getting it from the horse‘s mouth that the movie is anti-Catholic.

You can‘t imagine somebody saying, well, maybe the Holocaust happened. 

Maybe it didn‘t happen.  Maybe it‘s a conservatively anti-Semitic movie.  Hollywood would go bonkers.  Now, we‘re back to where we started from all again.  Mel Gibson puts out a great movie to make Christians proud, and the first thing we are called by the Hollywood guys is that we‘re bigots.  Now we have got a movie here where a lot of Christians have a problem with it, depending on how it‘s cast, admittedly, and all of sudden, we‘re told that we have got to lighten up.  I have had it with these people. 


COLGAN:  If John Calley says that it‘s anti-Catholic, that settles the matter, isn‘t it?

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

Thank you so much, Bill Donahue.  We will have to leave it there. 

Bill, Flavia, as always, thank you for being with us. 

And I‘m joined now by Tucker Carlson.  He‘s host of “THE SITUATION


Hey, Tucker, tell us about Tucker‘s code tonight.  What are you going to be sorting through for us? 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON”:  Joe, I‘m not even Catholic, but I can tell you that book is crapola on every—by every measure, I have to say. 


CARLSON:  I‘m not even going to judge it in religious terms, just badly written, stupid plot.  I‘m not a fan and never was. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on.  Hold on.  How do you spell crapola?  I‘m going to put it in the...

CARLSON:  I‘m not sure.  Run it through your spell-check.


SCARBOROUGH:  I will look it up.

So what‘s up tonight, Tucker? 

CARLSON:  “L.A. Times” today, op-ed by Joel Stein, formerly of “TIME” magazine, first line in the op-ed: “I do not support our troops.”

It‘s a piece about how, if you don‘t support the war in Iraq, if you oppose the war, you cannot logically say, but I support the troops.  That is moral cowardice.  It is a column that is drawing an enormous and very hostile response, but I think it raises important questions about the moral ridiculousness of taking “on the one hand/on the other hand” positions about the war.  It‘s a fascinating story. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

Well, I‘ll tell you what, a fascinating story.

Now, obviously, a lot of Americans out there will think that Joel is just full of crapola, but we will see. 

CARLSON:  Yes, big time.  I would be worried if I were Joel.


SCARBOROUGH:  I would, too.   

Make sure you tune into “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON.”  It‘s coming up next at 11:00.  It‘s must-see TV for me every night.  It should be for you also.

Now, when we come back, more trouble for “American Idol.”  Tonight, the comments that have one group demanding answers. 

And, later, a plane makes an emergency landing on a busy highway in the Redneck Riviera during rush hour, a sure way to get into flyover country. 


SCARBOROUGH:  As you know, “American Idol” has certainly seen its share of controversy over the past year or two, judges fooling around with contestants, contestants landing in jail, former winners trying to keep the show from using their music, and now a group representing gays saying that “American Idol” may be homophobic. 

Take a look at what happened on last week‘s show that got these people so riled up. 


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing):  The “American Idol” is just what I want to be. 

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE:  It doesn‘t get any worse than that, Charles (ph).  Shave off the beard and wear a dress. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why?  Why would you say that?

COWELL:  Because he would be a great female impersonator. 


SCARBOROUGH:  So, what‘s going on at “American Idol”?

Here to talk about it, Katrina Szish from “Us Weekly” and Carmen Rasmusen, a former contestant.

Katrina, is this much ado about nothing or another chink in the armor of “American Idol”? 

KATRINA SZISH, STYLE EDITOR, “US WEEKLY”:  I think you said it perfectly.

I think it‘s much ado about nothing.  Part of the show‘s charm, so to speak, is that Simon will say pretty much anything to get a laugh, to make a point, and I think this is just another case of that. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Why is it, though, it seems this year that we‘re hearing every week another story about “American Idol,” whether it‘s about past winners not letting their music being played, these two guys being thrown in jail, these twins?  And, of course, last year, of course, we had the story about one of the judges being involved with one of the contestants.  Is it just that Americans have this morbid fascination with “Idol”? 

SZISH:  I think, at this point, Americans are so obsessed with “Idol,” whether they love it or hate it.  It really has taken over much of entertainment television.

And I think when something is that successful, you almost look for ways to bring it down.  So, I think everybody‘s watching everything that happens on “Idol.”  And it‘s so easy to look for some way to bring this successful show down a notch. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Carmen, you‘re a former contestant.  You were there behind closed doors, behind the curtain calls.  Is “American “Idol” anti-gay or at least homophobic? 


Anyone that has seen the show knows what Simon‘s like.  Simon criticizes everyone and everything.  And I shed my fair share of tears from the things that Simon said to me.  So it‘s just what the show‘s about.  It‘s based on criticism. 

Now, having said that, I think that it goes a little too far if someone were to make fun of your sexual preference or private lifestyle.  So, I think the show should be about music and talent.  And, so far, for the most part, it has been.  I have never had any problems with “American Idol” or thought that they were homophobic or anything like that.  I think that...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, what do you think, though, when Simon—I understand what you both are saying, that, no, it‘s not homophobic.

But at the same time, I cannot imagine what would happen if a Republican politician like Tom DeLay told somebody, in passing, that they should wear a dress.  You would have human rights organization and every gay group coming out, saying that he was a bigot.  And yet here you have Simon telling this guy he needs to wear a dress.  It certainly seems to be a tad bit insensitive, doesn‘t it? 


RASMUSEN:  Simon is definitely an outspoken person.  He is, and probably says a lot of things that he shouldn‘t.  But he‘s definitely not a bigot. 



And I think the rules here are very different.  They apply differently as they would to Tom DeLay. 

RASMUSEN:  I do, too.



SZISH:  I think it‘s just an—one‘s entertainment and one, well, I guess sometimes could be construed as entertainment. 

RASMUSEN:  Exactly. 


SZISH:  But I also think the point that the little clip we saw of what Simon actually said, I don‘t think he was talking about this guy‘s sexual preferences.  I think maybe he was talking about the sound of his voice and maybe his whole demeanor, but I don‘t think he was challenging his sexual preferences.

SCARBOROUGH:  He said, put on a dress.  You would make a perfect female impersonator.  And if that‘s not looking at a guy and saying, hey, buddy, you‘re gay, I don‘t know what is. 


SZISH:  See, I don‘t see it that way.  I think Simon is looking for a laugh.  He loves to say something a little bit off-color, but I don‘t think it was a direct personal homophobic comment. 

RASMUSEN:  I agree. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Katrina, how long—let me ask both of you this question.

How long can “American “Idol” keep this hold on public fascination? 

The ratings just keep going up year after year after year. 


SZISH:  Go ahead.

RASMUSEN:  Oh, sorry.

I think that some people haven‘t seen the show.  The first season, it did pretty good.  The second season was a lot better.  Third and fourth season, it‘s just outrageous.  And now a lot of people that haven‘t watched it the first couple seasons are now starting to catch on. 

And I meet people every day that say, oh, I didn‘t watch last season, but all my friends are talking about it, so I‘m getting into it this season.  So, I think that it could go strong for another probably three or four seasons. 



SZISH:  I think even further than that, because part of what we love so much is what‘s going on right now, which is these crazy auditions.  It‘s really fun to see the spectacle of it all. 

So, I think people who maybe might not watch it to find the next young American pop sensation are watching it for the humor, are watching it for these funny or controversial statements that Simon is making.  So, I think you‘re even drawing a larger audience that‘s just giving it more and more power.  And I don‘t think we are going to “Idol” going anywhere any time soon. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right. 

Thanks so much, Katrina Szish and Carmen Rasmusen. 

RASMUSEN:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Greatly appreciate you being with us again.

And, when we return, a grand opening for a Hooters that‘s never been so blessed. 

And tonight‘s “Joe Schmoe.”  Stay with us.  That‘s coming up.


SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, friends, it‘s time for another flyover of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  These of course are the stories that may have fallen under the mainstream media‘s radar, but certainly not ours.

Our first stop is in Navarre, Florida, where a gas station security camera—watch closely—caught a small plane making an emergency landing on a busy highway.  Now, the plane had a bit of a fender-bender with an SUV that was carrying a family of five.  But nobody was injured.  The pilot says his engine stopped and he was trying to land at a nearby airfield.  The landing gear didn‘t go down, for the landing, which the pilot says probably saved everybody‘s lives. 

Our second stop is Waco, Texas, where the opening of a new Hooters restaurant is a blessed event.  Breaking with other area clergy, who publicly expressed outrage over the sexy eatery, the head Catholic priest in Waco has actually gone to Hooters and blessed the restaurant.  He says the blessing is going to make the restaurant a safe haven for employees. 

For the record, he says he‘s eaten at Hooters twice and thought the experience was heavenly. 

Our final stop, San Jose, California, where a new, slightly hair-raising art exhibit is on display.  All the artwork is made from real human air.  Among the work, hair flowers, a ladder of hair, and the wall of ponytails.  Even the curator admits the exhibit ranges from Rapunzel to repulsive, depending on your perspective. 

Hey, we will be right back with tonight‘s “Joe‘s Schmoe.”

Plus, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” is just minutes away, so stick around.


SCARBOROUGH:  Now you can drive to work with SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, and you can take it wherever you go.  Just go to iTunes and get your free podcast.  Look up SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

We will be right back with tonight‘s “Joe‘s Schmoe.”


SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s time for tonight‘s “Joe‘s Schmoe.”

Now, it wasn‘t enough that Republican Alaskan Governor Frank Murkowski got to keep more than $200 million he got from the federal government for those so-called bridges to nowhere.  Now he wants to spend his state‘s surplus on a P.R. campaign to convince the rest of America that Alaskan politicians aren‘t really wasting our tax dollars with these bridges to nowhere. 

Now, he laid out the plans for a P.R. makeover in his recent state-of-the-state speech, where he attacked people who dared to call the bridges to nowhere ridiculous. 

Because of that, Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski, you‘re tonight‘s “Joe‘s Schmoe.” 

Hey, that‘s all the time we have for tonight.

Stick around, because “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” starts right now. 

Hey, Tucker, what is the situation tonight?

CARLSON:  Oh, Joe, thanks.


Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Watch Scarborough Country each weeknight at 10 p.m. ET


Discussion comments