updated 1/26/2006 9:24:22 AM ET 2006-01-26T14:24:22

Guests: Pat LaLama, Carmen Rasmusen, Michael Smerconish, Eric Dezenhall

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, the politics of hate.  An “L.A. Times” columnist says he doesn‘t support the troops.  Are the president‘s enemies giving aid and comfort to America‘s enemies?

Al Franken is here live for tonight‘s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown.

And then Oprah is in trouble.  The daytime queen of TV is fighting for her reputation after her book club scandal.  Now she‘s taking on her critics in a very public way tomorrow.  The stakes are enormous.  She sent out a press release tonight.  We will tell you about it and talk about her plan.  And we will also talk to the experts. 

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 for being with me tonight.  I greatly appreciate it.

We have got all those stories coming up, plus a major development tonight in the Natalee Holloway case.  We are going to be live in Natalee‘s hometown to answer the question why Aruban police have finally decided to go to Alabama.  Are they close to a break in the case?  We have got an NBC reporter there to tell us about it.

And, also, he‘s best known as the naked “Survivor” winner.  But he lost big time in court today.  Now Richard Hatch sitting in jail and considered a flight risk if he gets out on parole.  We have got all the latest details on that stunner also.

But, first, is hating America becoming fashionable?  And why are powerful politicians who are attacking our troops, well, why are they doing  it?  Are they only hurting themselves?  Or are they causing damage to America?  We are going to debate that in a minute with the always passionate, always articulate Al Franken.

But, first, listen to a sample of what I‘m talking about. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS:  If I read this to you and didn‘t tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have happened by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime, Pol Pot or others.

HARRY BELAFONTE, ACTOR:  The greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W. Bush.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FACE THE NATION”)

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS:  There is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going in to the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD SUTHERLAND, ACTOR:  We have children.  How dare we take their legacy from them?  How dare we?

CINDY SHEEHAN, SON KILLED IN IRAQ:  George Bush still continues his evil rhetoric that he is waging a war on terrorism.  So his mission is to kill more because he‘s already killed so many. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, the reason a lot of people are talking about this again is because Joel Stein fanned the flames yesterday when he wrote a controversial op-ed piece from “The Los Angeles Times,” saying that he—quote—“does not support the troops.”

This is what Joel said—quote—“Being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions that pacifists have ever taken.  And they‘re wussies by definition.  It‘s as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn‘t to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest, but to remember to throw a parade afterward.”

Well, with me now to talk about Joel‘s column and also what‘s been going on in Washington the past couple months is Al Franken.  He‘s of course the host of “The Al Franken Show” on Air America Radio.  And he‘s the author most recently of “The Truth With Jokes.” 

And, Al, I thought you were the perfect to bring on for this segment, especially, as everybody is talking about this Joel Stein column.  You are a guy who has passionately fought against this war for some time and yet you are one of the few Hollywood stars either pro-war or anti-war that has actually gone to Iraq and gone to Afghanistan to support the troops, to make them laugh, to make them forget where they are and what they‘re doing.

I‘m curious how you respond to Joel Stein‘s charge that, if you are anti-war and you support the troops, that you are somehow a hypocrite. 

AL FRANKEN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Well, thanks for matching the USO tours.  I have done six and three to those theaters. 

I haven‘t read Joel‘s piece.  And I‘m sorry I haven‘t, because my first reaction is that he was being satiric.  And I haven‘t—so I haven‘t read the piece.  I think the one thing everyone did learn from Vietnam, the one lesson that virtually everyone learned from Vietnam, and there‘s a lot of lessons to be learned from Vietnam, but the one that we agree on is don‘t blame the troops. 

And I love our troops.  We had a doctor on the show on our radio show the other day to talk about helmet liners, because 67 percent of our casualty now are brain injuries; 67 percent of the guys that have casualties have brain injuries.  And we are trying—and we on the show are trying to get people to Operation Helmet to send these liners for the helmets to the troops. 

I love our troops.  And I want to also make a little clarification.  I have not—I‘m not anti-war in the sense that I think we made a mistake going to this war.  I think we were lied into this war.  And we have discussed this before on your show.  I don‘t—I think it would be a mistake to withdraw precipitously now.   

(CROSSTALK)

FRANKEN:  Yes.  Go ahead.

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m sorry, Al.

I was just going to say, following up on what Joel said.  He said if you do oppose the war now like a lot of activists do and you say that you are against the war because you think it is immoral, as a lot of people have said it‘s immoral, you think George Bush lied America into it and that it‘s wrong because we are killing a lot of Iraqi women and children, according again to these activists, Joel Stein says that you can‘t support the troops because they the troops are the ones that are pulling the triggers, they‘re the ones that are dropping the bombs, they‘re the ones that are killing the women and children. 

So they can‘t hide behind the Nazi facade of just following orders. 

FRANKEN:  Well...

SCARBOROUGH:  And that‘s what Joel‘s point is, that they are the ones that are killing people over there, so you can‘t support them. 

FRANKEN:  OK.  I have not read Joel‘s piece.  So, I have to—and, again, I know his writing.  And I assume it was satirical. 

But let‘s say it isn‘t.  If it isn‘t, I don‘t—I just can‘t agree with him at all.  This is—the military knows one thing.  They—this is a volunteer army, first of all.  But they follow the orders of the civilian leadership.  So the soldiers and the Marines and the airmen and women and the sailors that I meet over there know that they have to follow orders. 

So that‘s the way it has to be in our country.  We—the military has to take orders from the civilian authority.  Otherwise, you have “Seven Days in May.”  And these guys are doing their jobs and they are doing it bravely.  And I love going over there.  And I—and you can ask other people who have been on the trips with me.  I‘m as dedicated to the troops as anyone. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes.  And, Al, the thing is that bothers me about a lot of these people, again, people that are entertainers on both sides of the aisle, very few of them are going over there. 

You are one of the few that goes over there, puts your life on the line, gets out of your comfort zone.  I know you got a bad back.  It ain‘t easy to travel those distances. 

FRANKEN:  My back is doing better. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Doing better now?

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  But there is—again, people need to understand that.  I disagree with you on a lot of issues.  We have had some heated debates before. 

But, again, I think you blow a hole in Joel Stein‘s argument.  I love Joel‘s writing, but he was not being facetious.  He was...

FRANKEN:  Really?

SCARBOROUGH:  He was very serious.

I want to ask you, though, because we checked and tried to find any inflammatory remarks you may have made about the war being immoral.  You have been very careful in what you have said over the past couple years.  I want to talk about the Democratic Party and some of those clips that we showed at the beginning, like, for instance, Dick Durbin, number-two Democrat in the Senate, comparing our troops to Nazis, to Stalinists, to the Khmer Rouge. 

FRANKEN:  He wasn‘t comparing the troops to Nazis, Joe.  

SCARBOROUGH:  Don‘t you think that was reckless of him? 

FRANKEN:  Listen, I never like making comparisons to the Nazis, because I think that was just the most horrific thing that has ever happened.  And it is trivializing that.

But he wasn‘t comparing our troops to that.  He was comparing the—some of the stuff that happened at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.  And, by the way, this past trip, I entertained at Abu Ghraib.  And I talked to those soldiers there and said that you have to live with this stigma that is not of your doing. 

And—but he was talking about the specific instances that the FBI had reported that were really horrific instances of us torturing people.  And so what he compared it—and he is saying, if you saw descriptions of this, you would think it wasn‘t us. 

And it isn‘t the United States.  The United States should not be doing this and, through our history, has not.  And it is tragic that this president now sees it as part of his authority to authorize torture.  And I don‘t think he has that authority.  But even when he signed the bill that McCain brought—that McCain sponsored, and here‘s a guy who was tortured for years in North Vietnam. 

After he signed it, he put a codicil.  He wrote—whatever it is—an executive interpretation, saying that, well, I can still order torture if I want to. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right.  He basically added a caveat, saying under extraordinary circumstances, which, of course, that‘s not part of it.  You either sign the bill or you veto the bill.

FRANKEN:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  My point is, with Dick Durbin, you have been a lot more careful with your words than Dick Durbin and other Democrats have been with theirs. 

And of course I played you the John Kerry clip earlier.  We disagree on Durbin, obviously.  But let‘s move on to the John Kerry clip.  And, again, I‘m just asking why some of these leaders aren‘t being more careful, where Kerry says U.S. troops are going in to the middle of the night and terrorizing Iraqi women and children. 

Obviously, terrorizing a loaded word. 

FRANKEN:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And you wonder why a guy who got in so much trouble for what he said in 1971 doesn‘t show more care with his language, again, like you have been showing over the past three years, than John Kerry. 

FRANKEN:  Are we playing it again?  Or should I just respond to you?

SCARBOROUGH:  No.  I just want you to respond to it, unless you want me to play it again.

FRANKEN:  OK.

Well, I think what he was saying is, and I would love to know the full context of those words, because we have—we haven‘t handled everything as well as we could.  Fallujah was started because guys panicked and fired into crowds and killed civilians.  We have done some things in Iraq that we probably shouldn‘t be proud of. 

That doesn‘t mean that 99.9 percent of our troops aren‘t doing a great job and aren‘t doing the best that they can.  But we have sent guys over there who aren‘t trained to do this kind of thing, who are National Guard, who are reservists, who don‘t have their proper training.  We have guys that are sadistic. 

Come on.  We have 135,000 guys there.  Not 135,000, each—not every one of them is a great guy.  But 99.9 percent of them are doing their job and are not doing this kind of thing, but a few—a number—more than just a few incidents have happened where we have done stuff that has hurt us.  It‘s hurt us with the hearts and minds of the people in Iraq.  Allowing the looting was a horrible thing to do.  Disbanding the Iraqi military just was a stupid thing to do.  It was basically telling...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  But, again, like you said, though—Al, you made the distinction yourself.  You‘re right.  Those were stupid decisions made by civilian leadership, not by the troops.    

FRANKEN:  Absolutely.

SCARBOROUGH:  And I want to understand line it one more time again because we live in this political climate where you are either on my side or you are an enemy.  I want people to know, again, Al—and I thank you for being us—that you have been going overseas, you have been supporting troops. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And I personally, I want to thank you for it tonight for the parents who probably, a lot of parents out there who may disagree with you on a lot of positions.  I know the troops appreciate it.  I will give you the last word. 

FRANKEN:  Well, I just want to say, it is my honor to do it. 

And, also, I‘m not really risking my life.  I‘m with the USO.  I travel with a sergeant major of the Army.  They want to make real sure that we are safe.  And I don‘t feel in danger at all.  But I have gotten a lot of e-mails from parents of troops and from troops themselves who say, I disagree with you 99 percent of what you say, but thanks for coming over. 

And that‘s why I get more out of it than—and I would love to encourage anyone who is watching the show in Hollywood or New York to do it.  It‘s a great thing to do.  It will change your life.  It‘s a great thing to do, the USO.  The USO is a great organization. 

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it.

Hey, Al, thanks a lot for being here tonight. 

FRANKEN:  Thanks, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Greatly appreciate it.  All right.  Have a good night.

FRANKEN:  My pleasure.

SCARBOROUGH:  And coming up next, Aruban police in Alabama tonight are tracking down Natalee Holloway‘s friends.  They believe there may be a break in the case and may know where she‘s buried tonight.  We are going to be live with the very latest.

And, later, Oprah‘s damage control from her book club scandal.  She goes public to fight back, what she‘s doing and what‘s going to happen tomorrow live on her show. 

Stay with us.  We are just getting started in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  The Associated Press is reporting today that “American Idol” has entered into—quote—“a mean season.”  We will show you some of the meanest moments of that season whether this American institution is in trouble—that and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Major new developments tonight in the Natalee Holloway case. 

Eight months after the Alabama teenager vanished on the island of Aruba, NBC News has learned that Aruban authorities are acting on a tip that takes them to Natalee‘s home town and they believe may help crack the case open.  They‘re talking to Natalee friends tonight about the night she vanished. 

Let‘s go live now to Mountain Brook, Alabama, Natalee‘s home town, and bring in NBC‘s Michelle Kosinski. 

Michelle, what‘s going on in Alabama tonight?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Hi, Joe.

Well, top Aruban officials down there confirm for us that the actions they have been taking lately are directly related to new information that they have uncovered in Natalee Holloway‘s disappearance, new information that they say leads them to feel strongly about the lighthouse on the island being a potential burial site. 

For that reason, they say within the next or two, they plan to have a full FBI cadaver dog team on the island, as well as Dutch investigators.  And they say other new information they have gathered leads them here, to the United States, to Alabama, and surrounding states, where they will be going to several colleges where Natalee‘s friends are now students to talk to them again about the night she disappeared back in May.

Now, they have already been interviewed by the FBI.  But Aruban police say, back then, investigators did not have the benefit of this new information. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KOSINSKI (voice-over):  It‘s been a long time, nearly eight months since Natalee Holloway disappeared in Aruba on the last night of a graduation trip with her high school classmates and friends.  No one knows the excruciating emptiness more than her mother, Beth Holloway Twitty. 

BETH HOLLOWAY TWITTY, MOTHER OF NATALEE HOLLOWAY:  We need results.  We expect results. 

KOSINSKI:  Investigators from Aruba have now traveled to the states to talk to the students who were there that May night Natalee disappeared.

The witnesses have already said they saw Natalee leave Carlos ‘n Charlie‘s bar with three local boys, never to be seen again.  Detectives want to revisit their stories, double-check to see if anything new comes out.  But new life in the case also brings new pain. 

HOLLOWAY TWITTY:  It does concern me about reopening these wounds with these classmates of Natalee‘s. 

KOSINSKI:  The students on the trip have all graduated from Mountain Brook High School here.  And the Aruban investigators will take at least a week to travel across the south to talk to them, visiting schools that include the University of Alabama, Auburn, the University of Tennessee, and Wake Forest.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s about time they came and did something, because they haven‘t done anything in Aruba.  They need to do something here. 

KOSINSKI:  Since Natalee disappeared, the state of Alabama has officially boycotted the island. 

REP. SPENCER BACHUS ®, ALABAMA:  They will be here in Birmingham.

KOSINSKI:  Congressman Spencer Bachus has worked with the State Department to help bring the Aruban investigators here. 

BACHUS:  They need to tie up loose ends.  And they simply need to go over, once again, the final hours that—when Natalee was there. 

KOSINSKI:  Right now, three Aruban teenagers are the last known people to be seen with Natalee.  They have bee arrested, charged and released, two of them were re-arrested and re-released, but still no sign of Natalee.

Now investigators are crossing borders for some new sign to turn this case from cold to closed. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KOSINSKI:  Joe, Aruban police wouldn‘t say exactly why these 20 or so students are being singled out. 

But we talked to a mother of one girl who may possibly be re-interviewed.  She says it‘s tough on them, because it really draws out those emotions again, but great if it will help solve the case. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I think anything gives them hope.  I think they‘re hanging on by a string and anything will give them hope for Natalee to—closure for Natalee or whatever happened. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSINSKI:  The Arubans say they feel good about this new information they have gathered, although they wouldn‘t go into detail, but say it could be potentially significant in building their case against those three suspects who have since been released from custody—Joe, back to you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Michelle, talk about the atmosphere in Mountain Brook, Alabama. 

Obviously I was there this past summer.  It‘s an area I know very well.  And at the time, there was hope.  They had yellow ribbons around the tree.  These kid had just gotten out of school and were enjoying their summer vacation and all talking about Natalee.  But that seems so long ago.  As you have said, they have all now gone off to college, gone on with their own lives, obviously trying to put this terrible, terrible time behind them. 

But that‘s really possible, is it, especially with these Aruban authorities coming back and actually going to America?  It seems to be an extraordinary step.  Can you tell me, what‘s the attitude and what‘s the atmosphere like in Mountain Brook, not only with Natalee‘s parents, but also with the family of these friends?

KOSINSKI:  It‘s a close-knit community.  Everybody seems to know each other.

And a couple months ago, we saw them very sadly take down those ribbons, as the hope that she might return started to fade.  And talking to people, they say they really feel an emptiness in this community, where, really, bad things don‘t happen very oven.  Some people we talked to still would start to cry in speaking of what happened here. 

And the mother of one of the girls that we talked to that you heard said that it‘s been so hard on these students.  Some of them come back here almost every weekend from their college campuses just so they can be together.  They say it‘s really tough for them to keep talking about it, so that they will get together in a small group.  They will say a prayer.  They will think about Natalee.

But it‘s something that they really have a hard time still talking about, in terms of the details.  That‘s why it‘s tough to see these investigators want to draw out those details again.  But they really do have a sense that it‘s something they need to do for Natalee and for her family.

SCARBOROUGH:  Michelle, it seems like an extraordinary gesture to come up to Alabama, after these investigators in Aruba have been dragging their feet so for so long. 

And obviously these kids were available all in one spot up until obviously the fall when they all went off to college.  Can you tell us anything you have learned from talking to Aruban authorities or talking to American authorities or the family what exactly made this tip so valuable that they would come up and basically fan all across the Southeast? 

KOSINSKI:  They really wouldn‘t characterize this tip in any way. 

And you got a sense that it‘s more of a gathering of information over time.  They say they first came up with this idea of re-interviewing the students a couple of months ago in sitting down with the FBI and coming up with a game plan, so something they have been working on.  They said it did take a while logistically, politically and investigatively to actually get to the United States to do this, because they don‘t have jurisdiction here, even though they‘re working with the FBI. 

But they had to go through Washington, submit the actual questions to get this thing done.  But again they said they feel pretty good about this information.  Whether that will lead to something, we don‘t know.  But you certainly do see them now trying it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks so much, NBC‘s Michelle Kosinski.  Greatly appreciate it. 

And when we come back, Oprah Winfrey in trouble.  The book club scandal and a new wrinkle.  Tonight, an announcement that she‘s bringing out the big guns to try to set the record straight and save her reputation.  Details coming up next.

And boathouses and million-dollar yachts up in flames.  We are going to have that story and much more in tonight‘s flyover of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

Stay with us.  We will be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Oprah promotes a book of lies, then defends her actions and defends the author.  But now she lets America know that she‘s going live tomorrow to confront the situation head on.  What does she need to do and what will she do to help her reputation?  We will talk about that when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

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

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  He was the big and naked winner from the first season of “Survivor.”  Richard Hatch is behind bars tonight considered a flight risk.  The latest on his legal problems coming up. 

And later “American Idol”‘s mean streak.  You are going to see examples of what the Associated Press is saying a mean season.  Talking about TV‘s most popular shows and how it‘s getting downright nasty.

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

But, first, Oprah Winfrey on the hot seat.  Now she‘s fighting back.  Her show put out a press release today announcing that James Frey is going to appear live on a broadcast of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” tomorrow. 

Now, Frey is the author who is fighting for his reputation amid allegations that he made up most of his memoir, a memoir that became a best seller after he went on Oprah‘s show. 

So, what is going to happen on tomorrow‘s big show, and what does Oprah need to do to turn the corner on this embarrassing episode?

With me now, we have got radio talk show host Michael Smerconish and also crisis management expert Eric Dezenhall.  He‘s the author of a “Turnpike Flameout,” a novel about celebrity scandal.  How appropriate.

Let‘s start with you, Michael. 

What do you think Oprah needs to do tomorrow to turn the corner and put this behind her? 

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST:  Joe, the question is will Oprah take a dive tomorrow, a la Larry King, or is she going to interrogate this guy?  Is she going to ask all the questions that the millions of us who read the book want answered?

And, frankly, I have got a list.  I wish I were interrogating this guy tomorrow.  She should begin by saying, Mr. Frey, is it true that you initially marketed this book as a work of fiction and only after you were rejected by a dozen or more publishing houses, you decided that you would recast this book as a work of non-fiction?

And then she ought to ask questions like, were you really wanted in three states?  Did you really have multiple root canals without any pain medications?  Was there a character on whom you based the person Lilly?  And did she really attempt to commit suicide?  There are a whole host of questions that people want to know. 

And, frankly, Joe...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael, you think he‘s lying about all of these things, right? 

SMERCONISH:  Yes, Joe, I do he‘s lying about all these things.  And I think there are also some questions for Oprah Winfrey. 

Like, Oprah, is it true, as published in yesterday‘s “New York Times,” that three months before you put this guy on the show, your producers were told by a counselor who worked where he was treated that the whole thing was bogus and a fraud?  Whole host of questions for a lot of people tomorrow. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Michael, do you think she‘s going to engage in damage control?  Do you think it‘s possible that she may say, hey, I screwed up; this guy lied to me; I trusted him; I‘m sorry? 

Will that ever happen?

SMERCONISH:  I think that if she asks the hard questions, it will become readily apparent that she was snookered, like all the rest of us.  And then she ought to say what you just said.  And, most importantly, Joe Scarborough, she then ought to pull out a medical records authorization just like this. 

You can find it in every law firm in the country.  I brought it from my law firm.  And it says, I, James Frey—I even filled it out for him—hereby authorize the release of my medical reports. 

And then the whole word can see and there will be no dispute. 

SCARBOROUGH:  When he does that, obviously, Americans will find out just what he lied about. 

Now, two weeks ago, Oprah called in to “Larry King” to defend James Frey.  And this is what she said. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “LARRY KING LIVE,” JANUARY 11, 2006)

OPRAH WINFREY, HOST, “THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW”:  Although some of the facts have been requested, the underlying message of redemption in James Frey‘s memoir still resonates with me.  And I know that it resonates with millions of other people. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Eric, that just ain‘t going to cut it tomorrow, is it? 

ERIC DEZENHALL, AUTHOR, “SHAKEDOWN BEACH”:  Well, we don‘t know. 

The thing that I find about working on entertainment industry crises—and Oprah is an entertainer—is the standards are very different.  It‘s not like a pharmaceutical company that came out and admitted that their heart disease drug was really a sugar pill. 

I think, with somebody like Oprah, people cut you a lot of slack.  And I think she has several options.  I mean, as a general rule of crisis management, if you are guilty, repent.  If you are innocent, attack. 

I think probably her best option, if they have discovered that the book is a pack of lies, is for her to play the role as M.C. and questioner, rather than put herself in the position where she has to be his defender to the end.  I just don‘t see...

SCARBOROUGH:  So, don‘t defend Frey.  Ask him the tough questions.  And if he doesn‘t answer them the right way, attack him, right? 

DEZENHALL:  Well, yes.

She‘s not really the one on trial here.  And I reject the premise  that this is a huge crisis for Oprah.  It is a potential embarrassment for her.  But I don‘t think necessarily that people don‘t believe she is the provenance, the author of the lies. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Mike, though, the thing is we are not just talking about a book. 

If this were like “Angela‘s Ashes” and we found out that Frank McCourt had lied about growing up in Ireland, that actually, he was from Russia, that would be one thing.  But here you have a guy telling junkies and alcoholics and other people who are really some of the weakest in our society, hey, listen, you don‘t have to have discipline.  You don‘t have to go the route that so many people have gone to save their lives.  Do what I did, basically go at it on your own, which every counselor will tell you is a nightmare and doesn‘t work. 

So, there‘s a real possibility that there are people who have been greatly damaged by these lies. 

SMERCONISH:  When I have discussed this on my radio program in Philadelphia and have opened the telephone lines, I have actually received calls from addicts, from people who are battling drugs, battling booze, who have said, this guy was my role model. 

And the book, Joe, is a prescription plan.  When all is said and done, this is a guy who says, I was ravaged by drugs and alcohol.  And I turned my life around in this six-week in-patient treatment.  And guess what?  I swore off the Alcohol Anonymous‘ 12-step program. 

It‘s reasonable to assume that other people have read the book, battling the same demons, and have said, well, if Frey could get out of the nightmare by not following the prescription of Alcohol Anonymous, I guess I can as well.

He‘s hurting people.  That‘s the concern.  It‘s not Jayson Blair making up a couple of facts for “The New York Times” that mean the story is false in part, but nobody gets hurt.  There‘s a very real possibility here that people are getting hurt, people who can ill afford to get hurt. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And Oprah has got to know that.  She deals with these people every day.  That‘s what Oprah has done so well about, helping people actually put their lives back together, encouraging people to move forward and go past—I mean, Oprah has inspired millions and millions of people through the years. 

Doesn‘t it seem to you, Michael that she‘s got to step up to the plate and say this guy is a disgusting dog; he has let me down, but he‘s let you down, but, most importantly, he‘s let down some of the weakest and most frail people in our society? 

SMERCONISH:  When she called in to that patsy interview that was taken of Frey on CNN, she used the word irrelevancies.  Yes, well, these things are irrelevancies.

I beg to disagree.  Frey likes to say that only a dozen or so pages of the 400-plus pages have been called into dispute.  Joe, that‘s because he‘s playing us for fools.  He knows we can‘t question the in-patient treatment, unless he gives access to the records. 

And that‘s why the only proper thing to do—after all, this guy has no secrets.  He has exposed this side of his life.  He should make the records known to the world.  I will give you another indication.

Right off the bat, you will know tomorrow if this is for real or if this is choreographed.  Does Oprah Winfrey give a seat at the table to those guys from TheSmokingGun.com?  Because they blew the lid off it.  And they‘re prepared to ask the tough questions.  So, when the camera shot opens tomorrow, is The Smoking Gun represented?  That‘s what I want to know. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And we will have The Smoking Gun people on our show tomorrow night. 

Eric, I want to throw you the last question.  Give Oprah Winfrey advice tonight.  How does she handle it tomorrow?

DEZENHALL:  I think that she passes off the hot potato. 

I think that it is not her moral authority that is fundamentally under attack.  She has a tremendous amount of trust built up.  And I think that if she puts herself in the position of the interrogator, rather than the person who is the author of lies, I think that this will blow over. 

I think we are living in the age of audacity.  I think we are living in an age where we forgive celebrities very easily, especially since people don‘t perceive her as the committer of the fundamental crime. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  I think you are exactly right, Eric. 

And, unfortunately, that scumbag Frey is a guy that is going to be profiting off of all of this in the end. 

Eric, thank you so much.  Michael, as always, greatly appreciate you being here. 

And, still to come, the Associated Press says “American Idol” has entered its mean season.  Is it getting too nasty?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “AMERICAN IDOL”)

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE:  You know what my advice to you would be, honestly?  Shave off the beard and wear a dress. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  See for yourself why the show is under fire from all quarters, from everyone, from special interest groups to entertainment reporters.              

And talk about being under fire.  Richard Hatch may have survived a TV reality show, but can this guy survive jail?  And is he going to keep his clothes on?  He better.  We will give you the latest of his legal woes when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Has this season of “American Idol” gone from mean to just plain cruel? 

Well, the Associated Press reports today that this season of “Idol” has—quote—“a stench of a mean season.”  Don‘t believe it?  Well, why don‘t you be the judge for yourself?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “AMERICAN IDOL”)

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

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE:  It doesn‘t get any worse than that, Charles (ph).  You know what my advice to you would be, honestly?  Shave off the beard and wear a dress. 

Well, you just murdered one of the most beautiful songs of all time.

It went from torture to murder. 

You are more “Jerry Springer Show” than “American Idol.” 

RANDY JACKSON, JUDGE:  Oh, come on. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Jerry Springer?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  Blue moon.    

COWELL:  Appalling. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  In love with you.

COWELL:  We have a bigger stage this year. 

JACKSON:  Oh, come on. 

Are you a girl?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I‘m a guy. 

JACKSON:  You are?

COWELL:  I‘m not being rude, but you look like the Incredible Hulk‘s wife. 

(LAUGHTER)

COWELL:  That‘s what it is.

The best advise I can give you, Cache (ph), is to buy a sound-proof shower curtain. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing):  And I know that my heart will go on.

COWELL:  I hated the audition, everything about it.  I hate the dress. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My (EXPLETIVES DELETED) I think you all don‘t know good talent when you see it. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And you know what?  Who needs “American Idol”?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  With me now, former “American Idol” contestant Carmen Rasmusen and also entertainment reporter Pat LaLama.

Let me start with you, Carmen. 

You were a contestant.  You had to deal with this crew. 

CARMEN RASMUSEN, FORMER “AMERICAN IDOL” CONTESTANT:  Yes.  Yes, I did.

SCARBOROUGH:  Why does it seem that they are getting so much nastier this year than they were in past years? 

RASMUSEN:  You know what?  Honestly, I don‘t think that Simon is that much more tough or more cruel this season than he has been on the other seasons. 

Unfortunately, we live in a society where the prettiest, most beautiful girls are the ones who are looked at to succeed.  And the toughest, most chiseled, tan guys are the ones that are looked to succeed.

And if you are anywhere close to normal, you are going to be made fun of.  You‘re going to be picked apart.  That‘s “American Idol.”  Simon picks you apart, whether you are short, tall, skinny, fat, whatever.  And that is what people love to watch it.  They can‘t wait to hear what Simon says next.

so, I think that it‘s just Simon being Simon.  And I think that he‘s going to be like this.  And he has been like since the beginning.  And that‘s what he will continue to be like.

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat, we heard Simon call contestants fat, said one looked like the Incredible Hulk‘s wife. 

PAT LALAMA, CELEBRITY TRIAL JOURNALIST:  He did, yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  Told another guy that he needed to shave his beard and put on a dress, an obvious reference to his gay tendencies.

RASMUSEN:  Right, not good.

SCARBOROUGH:  Tell me, don‘t you think this has taken a turn for the worse and just it‘s getting downright nasty? 

(CROSSTALK)

RASMUSEN:  I think that there‘s definitely a line to be drawn.  And I think that Simon can sometimes push that line and go over the top with some of things that he says. 

But I also think that part of “American Idol” is people conquering Simon.  People love watching “American Idol” and love to watch people get tougher and kind of conquer the judges.  Look at Clay Aiken.  Look at Ruben Studdard.  So, in a way, I think it‘s kind of a good thing, because I think some people will step up to the plate and say, I don‘t care what you say and just get better. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat LaLama, I will ask you the same question.  Doesn‘t it seem that it‘s taken a turn for the worse, it‘s, as the Associated Press said, it‘s entered a mean season? 

LALAMA:  Yes. 

And you know what I think, Joe?  I think it‘s getting cheesy.  It‘s become shtick.  In the beginning, it was part of the deal.  All right, we all like to watch a train wreck, not that we want to share in the making fun of people.  But it‘s—you‘re sort of like, wow, I can‘t believe he said that.

I don‘t think it‘s fun to watch anymore.  I think maybe after covering all those lawsuits I had to cover over the last three years with people getting in trouble and this and that and Paula Abdul allegedly having an affair with a contestant, maybe the powers that be have decided, hey, we can capitalize off all this drama turning this what once was a nice family show, watching people try to achieve their dream, into this shticky soap opera. 

Maybe they‘re too afraid it‘s going to get stale.  But why fix it if it ain‘t broke, for heaven‘s sake?  I don‘t like it.  It turns me off now.  I don‘t like it. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  The ratings for “American Idol” have been through the roof, obviously, these first few weeks of the season.  But not everybody is amused.  The Gay and Lesbian Alliance have spoken out. 

They said it was unacceptable, said this—quote—“To turn a contestant‘s gender expressions into the butt of a joke is wrong.”

And the Congress of Racial Equality says the show “often makes blacks look like a bunch of clowns.”

And the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance says the show—quote—“continues to make rude remarks about overweight and obese contestants.”

I got to ask both of you, what does it say about us as a society that we like watching a guy from Britain come to America and call these people fat, gay, stupid, lousy, dumb?

RASMUSEN:  You know what?

(CROSSTALK)

LALAMA:  Go ahead.

RASMUSEN:  I think that Simon is kind of the gateway into the entertainment industry. 

And it‘s like, if you can‘t take the heat from Simon, whether the stuff that he says is inappropriate or not, you are not going to be able to take the heat in the entertainment industry.  So, in a weird way, Simon kind of stands as the gateway, saying, look, this is the way the entertainment industry is.  It‘s tough; it‘s cruel.  People will make fun of you. 

I was told I was ghastly in my first audition.  And I said, OK, I can either cry about this and quit or I can get tougher and stand up for what I believe in and who I am and get better.  So, I think that Simon is, in a weird way, just trying to make people tougher and stronger. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat. 

LALAMA:  Oh, excuse me for being jaded. 

It‘s all a big shtick to get more ratings, for heaven—I mean, come on.  There‘s no moral platform here.  There‘s no building of character and integrity.  It‘s a television show.  And Fox reels in the money from this television show. 

Listen, I was convinced last year that Paula Abdul was going to get the boot for what happened.  She‘s still there.  It all works for TV.  Come on.  Who are we kidding?

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks so much, Pat.  We will have to leave it there.

Pat LaLama and Carmen Rasmusen, thank you so much for being with us. 

RASMUSEN:  Thank you. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Right now, I‘m joined by Tucker Carlson, who, actually, he was the fourth judge in the first season of “American Idol.”  I don‘t know if you saw some of those lost bootleg “Idol” shows, but you really ought to...

(CROSSTALK)

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON”:  You know what happened, Joe? 

SCARBOROUGH:  What happened, Tucker?

CARLSON:  Is that arrogant foreigner, that Simon character, we ought to deport him just for being obnoxious.  I can‘t stand that—to come to our country and judge or entertainers, it‘s... 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Tucker, you remember what my campaign slogan was in my first campaign?  Blame the foreigners first.  It always works.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  That makes sense.

SCARBOROUGH:  Tucker, what is on the show tonight?

CARLSON:  That‘s why I love you, Joe.

We have got an amazing story out of Florida tonight.  We are going to interview a man who was told by his daughter, his 15-year-old daughter, last week that she had been molested by one of her teachers.  The man went to school, punched out the teacher in front of the class.  He was arrested for battery.  The teacher has not yet been arrested.

This man is being charged with a felony.  It‘s an amazing story.

Then, Democrats in Maryland pushing to let violent felons vote.  Rapists and murderers, they believe, ought to be able to go right from prison to the voting booth—pretty over the top.  We will talk to the woman who is sponsoring the bill.

SCARBOROUGH:  So over the top. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, Tucker, thanks so much.  Greatly appreciate it. 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  By the way, do you watch “American Idol,” Tucker? 

CARLSON:  I don‘t actually watch it.  I‘m here.  I‘m writing scripts.  I‘m getting ready for the show. 

But I wouldn‘t—that guy, to come—how would you like it if some American went to Great Britain and said here‘s who ought to be the next queen or started knighting people?  Why is a foreigner choosing our “American Idol”?

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  It‘s a total outrage.

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly. 

CARLSON:  I hate it.

SCARBOROUGH:  It is an outrage.

CARLSON:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Tucker, you need to yell about it tonight on “THE SITUATION.”

CARLSON:  And I‘m going to.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, baby. 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s coming up next, 11:00.  Don‘t miss it.

I never miss it.  You shouldn‘t either.

Now, when we come back, a million-dollar yacht, not Tucker‘s or mine, up in flames.  You will see what happened when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s time for another flyover of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, the stories that may have fallen under the mainstream media‘s radar, but, friends, not ours.

Our first up, Rhode Island, where jurors have extinguished “Survivor” champion Richard Hatch‘s torch.  And what a torch it was.  Hatch is the reality show‘s first winner, of course.  But today in court he was the big loser.  A jury convicted him of tax evasion related to his million-dollar “survivor” prize.  His defense, he thought CBS was supposed to pay the tax man.  Hey, isn‘t NBC supposed to pay my taxes?

The jury didn‘t buy it and voted to send him to jail.  He was handcuffed and taken into custody, because police consider him a flight risk.  Hatch could now face up to 13 years behind bars.  Ouch.

And our next stop is near Portland, Oregon, where a fire broke out this morning at a yacht club on the Columbia River.  Three houseboats went up in flames, but firefighters were able to control the fire and save one boat by hauling buckets of foam down to the docks.  There were no injuries.  And investigators aren‘t sure what caused the mess. 

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

Plus, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON”—man, and I can feel the excitement.  “THE SITUATION” is just minutes away.  So stick around.

Hey, isn‘t the Michael Young (ph)?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Take SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY with you on the road wherever you go.  Just go to iTunes and get your free podcast.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Best known for fawning over celebrities on the red carpet and ABC‘s “The View,” Star Jones says the war on terror is nothing more than a clash of male egos.  Last week, while commenting on the release of Osama bin Laden‘s new audiotape, she said—quote—“At some point, one of these men has to put it back in his pants an zip up the zipper.”

She also made the outrageous suggestion that President Bush hold some sort of talks with bin Laden.  Well, maybe Star should just stick to her over-the-top red carpet but-kissing and zip it herself, because Star Jones is tonight‘s “Joe‘s Schmoe.”

That‘s all the time we have for tonight. 

“THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON,” friends, well, it starts right now. 

Tucker, what‘s the situation tonight, buddy?

CARLSON:  Thank you, Joe.                                                                                                  

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