updated 2/3/2006 11:41:18 AM ET 2006-02-03T16:41:18

Guests: Chris Smith, Debra Saunders, Kennedy, Carmen Rasmusen, Haggai Yedidya, Ibrahim Hooper, Nicole DeBorde, Stacey Honowitz, George Parnham

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, GUEST HOST:  Right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, the lady walks.  Andrea Yates admitted drowning her five children, but today she walked out of jail on her way to a mental hospital.  Is it just another case of a high-profile defendant manipulating the insanity defense?

Then outrage across the Muslim world over cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.  Here‘s my question, folks.  Where was all their outrage after the events of 9/11?

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

SMERCONISH:  Thanks for being here.  I‘m Michael Smerconish, from Philadelphia.  Joe‘s under the weather and I‘m holding down the fort tonight.  We will have those stories.

Plus, it‘s getting ugly.  “American Idol” is a huge hit, but has it gotten just too mean?  That is what some critics are saying.  We will get at that.

And does Google have a porn problem?  The Internet giant may be standing in the way of our government protecting kids from pornography.  So why are they bending over backwards to keep the people‘s Republic of China happy? 

But first tonight she walks.  Andrea Yates, the Texas child killer who admitted to drowning all five of her kids back in 2001 was released today on bond and checked into a mental hospital. 

NBC‘s Don Teague is in Dallas with the latest. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DON TEAGUE, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Michael.  Andrea Yates is in an East Texas mental hospital tonight receiving psychiatric treatment under 24-hour lockdown. 

Yates was released from police custody this morning after her attorney posted a $200,000 bond.  She had been serving a life sentence for the 2001 drowning deaths of her five children, but last year an appeals court overturned her convictions.  The judges ruled jurors may have dismissed her insanity defense because of false testimony by a key prosecution witness.

Earlier this week, Yates reentered her plea, not guilty by reason of insanity and she will be tried again in March.  The judge agreed to grant bond under the strict condition that Yates go directly from jail to a state mental hospital and remain there until the trial begins.

Again, she is in that mental hospital tonight in East Texas.  But she is not a free woman—Michael.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SMERCONISH:  Let me bring in Andrea Yates‘ attorney, George Parnham. 

George, we‘re seeing pictures of the beautiful Rusk State Hospital, where Andrea is tonight.  I have to tell you any leniency shown toward your client to me is an outrage. 

GEORGE PARNHAM, ATTORNEY FOR ANDREA YATES:  Well, I possibly can understand your perspective. 

But you need to understand that Andrea Yates suffers from a severe mental illness and as a result needs to be hospitalized.  Now, she was placed on bond, as the law requires, and I could have come up with any sorts of alternatives, not to have her committed to a mental health facility. 

It just so happens that that‘s where she needs to be and as a condition of the bond, I made the request that the judge include a commitment in the Rusk State Mental Hospital.  And that‘s where she is tonight and will be for a substantial period of time. 

SMERCONISH:  George, to me it seems like this is yet another one of these high-profile cases where the insanity defense is manipulated. 

Listen, anybody who kills, except if you find some guy in the sack with your wife, has got to be crazy, right?  They‘re all crazy if they‘re murderers.  So, why do some of them get to play the insanity defense card and others they don‘t? 

PARNHAM:  Well, I think it really is based upon an understanding of mental illness. 

Now, I agree that there are instances where the insanity defense is not merited.  But when you have a situation where an individual has documented mental health issues, so severely mentally ill that that person lives in a delusional, psychotic state, where that individual‘s ability to rationally make decisions, thought processes, goals, the whole morass of the brain and how those judgments are formed, are impacted by mental illness, then that becomes a legitimate defense under the law. 

SMERCONISH:  There‘s a large part of me that says I don‘t care what brings it on.  The family—look at John Hinckley.  Isn‘t Hinckley now out of the slammer and getting home visitation, the guy who shot Ronald Reagan?  It‘s only those cases—and it‘s a credit to you, George Parnham, where they have a great defense lawyer, or high profile, or a lot of money, that they get to play that card. 

PARNHAM:  Well, we don‘t have a lot of money. 

As a matter of fact we have no money.  But we see this as an opportunity to attempt to educate the public about the reality of mental health and mental illnesses.  In this case, the tragedy is that five precious kids lost their lives because their mother was not treated properly and mentally ill at the time. 

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  But she comes up with some line about, hey, I thought I was submerging a potato.  And the jury didn‘t buy any of that.  And now you have got her starting out in a mental facility, going to a prison, now back to a mental facility.  And the thing makes no sense. 

PARNHAM:  Well, I want to go back to the kids for a minute. 

The legacy of the Yates kids, it seems to me, needs to be that mothers in the future need to be as free from mental illness as possible.  And in order to understand that, in order to treat it and make that become a reality, women‘s mental health issues need to be properly addressed and so that we can prevent tragedies in the future from occurring. 

And this is the first step.  We get her into a mental health facility.  A jury is going to hear the evidence in this case and make a determination as to whether or not her thought processes on that day permitted her to make a rational decision as to whether or not she was doing wrong.

SMERCONISH:  George, we appreciate you being on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. 

Thank you very much for your appearance here.

PARNHAM:  OK.  Thank you. 

SMERCONISH:  I want to bring in criminal defense attorney Nicole DeBorde, who is live in Houston, and Florida prosecutor Stacey Honowitz.

Stacey, what am I missing here?  Am I correct in saying it‘s just another case of the insanity defense getting played as a form of manipulation? 

STACEY HONOWITZ, FLORIDA ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY:  Well, certainly, Michael, what you‘re saying is what every prosecutor is saying, what the prosecutors down there are saying.

A first jury found her guilty.  Now, we know that it came back.  It got overturned.  But certainly they‘re not stipulating that she‘s insane.  They‘re taking her back to trial again.  And in this case they didn‘t won‘t to bond her.  It they wanted to bond her, it was going to be so high it would tantamount to no bond. 

And their feeling was, she murdered five kids.  She‘s not insane.  The jury, in the first case, she‘s not insane, and so she shouldn‘t be out on bond at all. 

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  But the whole thing got overturned.  You correct me if I‘m wrong.  There was a mistrial in this case for some ridiculous reason. 

Park Dietz is a prosecution expert witness.  He says, well, she got the idea from “Law & Order.”  And then they check the tape and they find out “Law & Order” never had such an episode? 

HONOWITZ:  Right.  That‘s why they overturned it.  They said that that‘s the state expert‘s testimony.  If they relied on that, it was improper.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  Yes.  Who cares?  She killed five kids.  Who cares?

HONOWITZ:  Exactly. 

Well, not only that.  That‘s not the only thing that the jury hung its hat on.  If they paraded in five experts, the state paraded in one.  They had to hang their hat on other things beside the state‘s testimony. 

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  Nicole DeBorde, what am I overlooking here?  Maybe I‘m thinking of my own four kids at home, but I have got not an ounce of sympathy for this woman.  She drowned five children. 

NICOLE DEBORDE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I understand completely why people have sympathy for the children.  No one is questioning that these children suffered and that that was a terrible tragedy. 

What the reality is, however, is that the lady being that is accused of this crime is insane and is not in a position to be responsible, criminally speaking, for the charges.  And that‘s the reality. 

And she is entitled to a fair trial to have this determined.  That has not yet been determined.  She is an innocent woman. 

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  You know how this works, Nicole.

Listen, I have got a piece of sound I want to just remind everybody of when she maintains that Satan is playing a role in this.  Give a listen. 

DEBORDE:  Does that sound sane to you?  It‘s absolutely—it‘s not. 

SMERCONISH:  It sounds to me like it‘s something that gets invented to assert an insanity defense. 

DEBORDE:  Well, now you sound like the state‘s fabricating witness. 

And that‘s exactly what he was trying to claim.

(CROSSTALK)

HONOWITZ:  That can not have been the only thing that they—that the jury decided upon. 

I mean, you hear—the legal definition of insanity doesn‘t understand the difference between right and wrong, and she doesn‘t understand.  She understands it.  She can‘t conform her conduct to that.  Certainly, in this case, though, there were other things that led you to believe that she knew what was going on.

SMERCONISH:  Ladies, here‘s—wait a minute.  Time out.  Time out. 

Here‘s the Satan tape.  Just give a listen to this. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did Satan ever talk to you?  You ever hear Satan‘s voice? 

ANDREA YATES, DEFENDANT:  When I was in a hospital last year or the year before, I was sleeping, and I heard kind of a deep growling voice. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH:  Isn‘t that what they all say?  I mean, they all come up with some voice in their head.

The Son of Sam, David Berkowitz, it was the dog of the neighbor‘s. 

There‘s always a convenient excuse. 

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  Listen, ladies, I got to tell you this.  Back in Philadelphia, we had a case where a guy named John DuPont murdered an Olympic wrestler named Dave Schultz. 

He asserted one of these defenses.  He looked like the album cover from “Aqualung,” if you remember back in ‘70s, long hair, dirty clothes, unkempt.  All of a sudden, when the trial is over, the guy looks like a United States Marine.  It‘s a manipulation of the legal system. 

DEBORDE:  Well, as you can clearly see, that‘s absolutely not the circumstance here. 

This is a woman who had an extensive, severe psychiatric history, which is documented.  There is nobody questioning, including the very prosecutors handling this case, that she is mentally ill. 

(CROSSTALK)

HONOWITZ:  Yes, but, Nicole, the bottom line is you know that even though you suffer from a mental defect, it doesn‘t mean you‘re legally insane.  People suffer from mental defects all the time.  It doesn‘t mean they meet the legal definition of insanity.  And that‘s not what this first jury thought.

(CROSSTALK)

DEBORDE:  That‘s true, but that‘s why she‘s entitled to a fair trial without a prosecution witness who is going to fabricate evidence to determine this key point.  And she‘s entitled to that day in court.

SMERCONISH:  Nicole, the only part that has been left out here is the usual line about her coming from a broken home and having been abused as a kid, and nobody speaks up for the five children. 

One other question for Nicole DeBorde.  Why $200,000, which in reality means, what, $20,000, maybe even less in this case?  That‘s the only amount of money that had to get posted for the bond that puts her back in the mental facility and not the jail? 

DEBORDE:  The state of Texas requires that reasonable bail be set in a case when a person is still awaiting her day in court, just as she is awaiting her day in court. 

You have to keep in mind that the judge is required, under the Constitution, to set a reasonable bail.  And that‘s exactly what she‘s done.  And also, Ms. Yates is not going anywhere.  She‘s being treated, so that the justice system will have an opportunity to have a fair day in court for her and for everyone involved. 

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  You may remember Ms. Yates calling 911 after those horrible murders.  Give a listen. 

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

911 OPERATOR:  What‘s your name?

ANDREA YATES, MOTHER WHO DROWNED CHILDREN:  Andrea Yates.

911 OPERATOR:  What‘s the problem?

YATES:  I just need them to come.

OPERATOR:  Are you having a disturbance?  Are you ill, or what?

YATES:  Yes, I‘m ill.

911 OPERATOR:  You need an ambulance?

YATES:  No.  I need a police officer.  Yes, send an ambulance.

911 OPERATOR:  Are you sure you‘re alone?

YATES:  No.  My kids are here.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SMERCONISH:  Stacey Honowitz, was $200,000 the right number to set as bond for her release? 

HONOWITZ:  Well, of course not. 

Everybody probably thinks that it‘s too low.  The prosecutors of course thinks it‘s too low.  They argued against it.  She‘s still facing murder charges, five murder charges, so to let her go on $20,000 into an area where she is a not even in a lockdown facility, I think the conditions are that she doesn‘t walk away or she doesn‘t leave there.

DEBORDE:  The judge, who is the one of the most respected judges in this county, doesn‘t think it‘s too low.

HONOWITZ:  And if she plans on leaving, then they can revoke the bond.

Certainly, if she was going into a lockdown facility, it might be a different story.  But she‘s not.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  Nicole DeBorde, on that score, I have got to show you the images of exactly where she‘s going.  This is where this woman is tonight.  My God, it looks like a place I would like to vacation this coming summer.

How can you possibly defend the murder of five kids being housed in that kind of a facility? 

DEBORDE:  She‘s going to a mental health hospital. 

And the reality is, is, look, in a pinch, we could probably have a veterinarian do a tracheotomy on you, should it become necessary.  But you know what?  The jail is not a hospital.  And this is a state hospital where she can get actual treatment, so that we can make sure that she can participate in the justice system when the times comes.  And that‘s really what this is all about. 

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  Stacey, would you like a timeshare in that place this coming summer?  I think it would probably go for about $5,000 a week. 

HONOWITZ:  No thanks.  I will stay away.  Thank you, though.  I appreciate it. 

SMERCONISH:  Thank you, Stacey Honowitz and Nicole DeBorde.

DEBORDE:  Thank you. 

SMERCONISH:  When we come back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, how could a cartoon get people so angry they‘re burning flags in the streets?  But where were all the Arab protesters after the events of 9/11?  That‘s a hot one.  And we will get at it.

And, later, “American Idol,” as its ratings climb, so does its mean streak.  Is the show going too far?  We will let you decide.

Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH:  Seconds away on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, is “American Idol” just too mean this season?  We will ask one contestant who was dissed coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH:  Can a cartoon create outrage so deep that it sparks protests, death threats and attacks? 

Welcome back.  I‘m Michael Smerconish, sitting in for Joe tonight. 

Cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad have sparked outrage in the Muslim world and led to a tense situation across Europe.  We will talk about the controversy with a popular cartoonist and prominent Muslim in a moment, but first let‘s get the latest on the cartoon battles from NBC‘s Dawna Friesen. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAWNA FRIESEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Fury in Gaza today. 

Gunmen swarm the office of the European Union and issue a warning. 

“Apologize within 48 hours, or we will bomb churches and E.U. buildings.” 

Their outrage triggered by cartoons, which we have chosen not to show, first published in a Danish newspaper.  One depicts the Prophet Muhammad wearing a turban that looks like a bomb. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  To do that is just totally immoral. 

FRIESEN:  Muslims believe showing any image of Muhammad is blasphemous.  And some have taken to the streets, a Danish flag burned and trampled on in the West Bank, European products taken off store shelves in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. 

The editor of the Danish newspaper has apologized if he offended Muslims, but says, “We don‘t apologize for printing the drawings.”

(on camera):  Adding fuel to the fire, seven other European newspapers reprinted the controversial images in support of the Danish paper, citing longstanding European traditions like freedom of expression, which they say is vital to any democracy. 

(voice-over): “Yes, We Have the Right to Caricature God” is the headline of this French newspaper, though the paper‘s owner, an Egyptian, today fired the managing editor. 

On Arab TV, where it‘s the top story, Denmark‘s prime minister tried to quell the storm.  He condemned the cartoons, but said he has no control over the press. 

At the Danish paper, a bomb threat forced the evacuation of the building.  There have been death threats, too, all because of the cartoons.

KHALED ELSHAMI, POLITICAL EDITOR, “AL-QUDS”:  I think this have well crossed the line from, like, freedom of expression into a deliberate humiliation of other people‘s beliefs. 

FRIESEN:  More anger is expected at Friday prayers in what is a growing clash of Western values vs. Muslim beliefs. 

Dawna Friesen, NBC News, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SMERCONISH:  Here at home, a cartoon in Sunday‘s “Washington Post” is also causing outrage.  It shows a U.S. soldier with no arms or legs and Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld as Dr. Rumsfeld. 

He‘s telling the soldier to—quote—“battle harden” and then goes to make a tasteless remark about torture.  That cartoon prompted an angry letter from the Joint Chiefs of Staff expressing disappointment, but defending the paper‘s right to free speech.  Why the two wildly different reactions?

Here to talk about it is Ibrahim Hooper from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.     

Mr. Hooper, welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

IBRAHIM HOOPER, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS:  Thanks for having me.

SMERCONISH:  Isn‘t that the right approach, the approach by the Chiefs of Staff, to write a letter of protest, but to recognize that “The Washington Post” absolutely had the right to air the cartoon that they ran? 

HOOPER:  Exactly. 

We believe that freedom of speech is two-way street.  If someone has the right to defame and to insult, those who are defamed and insulted have the right to speak up and state their case. 

SMERCONISH:  But, Mr. Hooper, there‘s a difference between writing a letter and affixing one‘s signature to it and burning flags and boycotting products and carrying on violent protests in the streets.  Are you defending, sir, that which you‘re seeing on the monitor right now? 

(CROSSTALK)

HOOPER:  No.  Actually, we don‘t defend any kind of violent action. 

But consumers do have the right to choose who they‘re going to buy their products from.  If somebody chooses not to buy Danish butter, that‘s their right.  But they don‘t have the right to attack anyone or attack a church or anything of that nature. 

SMERCONISH:  As I saw these events unfolding on MSNBC, I was wondering to myself, where was all this hostility and outrage in the aftermath of September 11 toward those 19 members of radical Islam?  I didn‘t see anything anywhere the likes of which we have seen in response to this cartoon. 

HOOPER:  Well, I think there was outrage.  There was universal sympathy for America at that time.  And, if you look, you would find it. 

SMERCONISH:  Mr. Hooper, the United States is fighting an enemy that I‘m sure you will say, and I would agree, wrongfully believes that that which they‘re doing is sanctioned by the Koran, sanctioned by Islam. 

So, I have to say, isn‘t there some truth in the political cartoon that shows the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb device? 

HOOPER:  No, you can make political statements, you can criticize, you can do all of these things, but the cartoons themselves were designed as intentional insults.  They were designed to hurt people‘s feelings; they were designed to provoke.  That‘s the difference in this case. 

SMERCONISH:  But that‘s the nature of the beast.  That‘s what a political cartoon does, sir.

(CROSSTALK)

HOOPER:  Let me tell you how the Prophet Muhammad responded to attacks on himself.

There was a lady who threw garbage in the path of the prophet on a daily basis.  One day, she didn‘t do it.  The prophet went to inquire about her health, because he thought she might be sick.  This lady ended up converting to Islam.  So, that‘s how you respond to people who attack you, with forgiveness and with kindness.

SMERCONISH:  Speaking of responses, I would like you to respond to a German newspaper that on this issue said—and I quote—“We would take Muslim protests more seriously if they weren‘t so hypocritical.  The imams were quiet when Syrian television showed Jewish rabbis as cannibals in a prime-time series.”

Your response, Mr. Hooper? 

HOOPER:  Well, I think that‘s a good comparison. 

We would reject any anti-Semitic cartoons published anywhere in the world, whether it‘s in the Muslim world or in Denmark or anywhere.  And we reject the same kind of bigotry when it‘s directed at Islam. 

SMERCONISH:  Should “The Washington Post” have run the cartoon that they ran, which I have just shown on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY? 

HOOPER:  Just because you can do something doesn‘t mean you should do something. 

I haven‘t looked at it that closely.  I don‘t have an opinion on that particular cartoon. 

SMERCONISH:  And my view is that free speech demands that not only—it‘s offensive to me.  I thought it was appalling, that which ran in “The Washington Post,” but they have got an absolute right to do it.  They‘re there to provoke thought, and in the exact same it‘s fair game for the Prophet Muhammad, given what we‘re up against with regard to radical Islam, to be depicted in the manner that he was depicted.  You get the final word.

HOOPER:  Well, if you want to decrease or end the cycle of mutual hostility and mistrust, this isn‘t the way to do it.  The way to do it is building bridges of understanding between the West and the Muslim world, not sticking your thumb in the other person‘s eye, basically.

SMERCONISH:  Respectfully, I don‘t think a piece of quiche and a warm blanket is getting us too far, either. 

But thank you, Ibrahim Hooper.  Thanks for being here tonight on

SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

When we come back, what‘s going on with “American Idol”?  It‘s TV‘s hottest show, but it may also be the meanest after this week‘s episodes.  Critics are saying that it‘s gotten out of control. 

And our government says it‘s trying to keep kids safe from porn, but is Internet giant Google now standing in the way? 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH:  “American Idol”‘s mean season.  Is the show going too far?  Is this any way to teach our kids how to treat each other?  You decide. 

But, first, here‘s the latest news from MSNBC World Headquarters. 

(NEWS BREAK)

SMERCONISH:  Is Internet giant Google getting in the way of our government presenting kids from online porn?  Why some say the company has  a double standard when it comes to cooperating with big governments. 

And we have got a convoy, of outraged truckers, that is, all fired up about an ad running in the Super Bowl.  See why they are so angry. 

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  I‘m Michael Smerconish, in tonight for the big guy.  We will have those stories in just a couple of moments. 

But, first, another week of “American Idol” and another controversy.  This time, there are reports that one of this season‘s contestants violated “Idol”‘s rules by already having a record deal, before he tried out.  Controversy or not, this season of “Idol” is TV‘s hottest show.  But it‘s got some people asking, is “Idol” just too mean?

We will ask a couple of former contestants in just a moment, but now, judge for yourself. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “AMERICAN IDOL”)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Simon is going to love me.  He‘s going to love me from the second I walk in. 

(SINGING)

SIMON COWELL, JUDGE:  I‘m going to be really nice and suggest to you an entirely new career path. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK. 

COWELL:  Which does not involve singing or performing. 

(SINGING)

COWELL:  I don‘t think any artist on Earth could sing with that much metal in your mouth anyway.  You have so much metal in your mouth.

(SINGING)

COWELL:  I think every note was out of tune.  Even the out-of-tune notes are out of tune. 

Awful. 

Honestly, absolutely frightful, the whole thing. 

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

(LAUGHTER)

COWELL:  That‘s what it is.  I‘m just being honest. 

(SINGING)

COWELL:  I don‘t think I can do this anymore. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH:  Joining me now is Haggai Yedidya.  He was a contestant on this season of “American Idol” but was kicked off the show this week.  Kennedy, she‘s the host of the new show “Reality Remix.”  And former “American Idol” contestant Carmen Rasmusen. 

Let me start with you, Kennedy.

The circus comes to town.  You try out for the circus, you don‘t make it, you can‘t turn around and say, hey, that was a real circus. 

KENNEDY, FORMER MTV VEEJAY:  OK.  That‘s a fine analogy. 

(LAUGHTER)

KENNEDY:  You were asking earlier if “American Idol” is too mean? 

SMERCONISH:  Is it?

(CROSSTALK)

COWELL:  I don‘t think it‘s too mean.  I think it‘s incredibly entertaining.

And I don‘t think the show is meant to teach kids a lesson.  But I think if there is a lesson to be learned that should be taught, it‘s that this country is supposed to be a meritocracy, where you get what you work for, and you have to work really hard in this country to make it, and you have to have some level of talent on a show that‘s all about singing. 

SMERCONISH:  Well, speaking of working awfully hard, let‘s take a look at Haggai and his audition. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “AMERICAN IDOL”)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH:  Haggai Yedidya, were they too rough with you, my friend? 

HAGGAI YEDIDYA, FORMER “AMERICAN IDOL” CONTESTANT:  Oh, no. 

I think they were actually treating me just like everybody else, nothing personal, to my opinion.  But I‘ll tell you what.  My audition was like four times longer than what you have seen on TV.  And my audition was not just about the sound of the voice.  I said to the judges, guys, for me, music is about development. 

I think music is a way to deliver a message to the people, to touch people‘s hearts, to make them develop themselves.  And then Randy was telling me, Haggai, what is your message to the people?  And I told him, Randy, I—it‘s not about my message.  I deliver them the tools to look inside themselves.  And everybody develops his own message out of the music.  But that makes music not only a voice or a sound.  It makes it a...

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  Well, don‘t let it get you down, big guy.  I see a bright future for you. 

Carmen Rasmusen, I want to ask you a question about Paula. 

CARMEN RASMUSEN, FORMER “AMERICAN IDOL” CONTESTANT:  All right. 

SMERCONISH:  Because maybe it‘s just me.  I have noticed that Paula seems to be getting awfully nasty and I‘m thinking maybe she‘s trying to rehabilitate her reputation after all that scandal last season. 

RASMUSEN:  Well, you know what I think? 

I think after several thousand people auditioning, most of them just wanting to get on the show for their 15 minutes of fame, three-quarters not really even caring if they get into the top 12, that it would be exhausting.  So, naturally, she‘s getting tired of it.  And she probably is like, all right, I‘m ready for the real talent.  And that‘s why maybe the nastier side of Paula is coming out. 

SMERCONISH:  You‘re being awfully kind.

Kennedy, do you buy into that? 

KENNEDY:  OK. 

This—Paula Abdul is doing a much greater service to people trying to get on the show this year.  In the past—it‘s not helpful to someone, it doesn‘t help mold their career or their talent to tell them that they‘re wonderful when they‘re not. 

RASMUSEN:  Exactly. 

KENNEDY:  And I think, frankly, she‘s just being honest, and she‘s not really being that nasty. 

I think Simon Cowell is being pretty funny; 30 million people are tuning in to the show at a time because it‘s very entertaining.  And I‘m amazed at the audacity that some of these people have who are tone-deaf.  Their voices really are abhorrent.  And they feel a sense of entitlement.  They feel like they deserve to be on the show because they have a particular message or they‘re—they‘re simply delusional. 

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  This thing has become such an institution, which is sad to say, in my view, that the folks at “The New York Times” chimed in last week. 

They‘re wondering where the outrage is over this season‘s nastiness.  They say—quote—“It does seem peculiar that a nation so torn apart over what message gay marriage or prayer in school will send to impressionable youth is so unified in giving a pass to a program that teaches young people that it‘s extremely cool to be mean.”

I guess my question is—and I will put it to you, Carmen.

RASMUSEN:  OK.

SMERCONISH:  Should anything be off limits?  Weight?  Sexuality? 

Appearance? 

RASMUSEN:  Yes. 

SMERCONISH:  Where do you cross the line? 

RASMUSEN:  I agree. 

I think this show isn‘t about the biggest loser.  You shouldn‘t be criticizing how fat someone is or how ugly someone is.  It should be based on talent.  However, the entertainment business is such a cruel, cruel place.  And to get in to the entertainment business, you have to have tough skin.  So, whether or not Simon is going too far in his comments, that‘s his job. 

He‘s kind of saying, hey, this is what it‘s like out there, and you can either put on the boxing gloves and fight back and get tough or get out of the ring. 

SMERCONISH:  Haggai Yedidya, do you have another tune ready for us, my friend? 

YEDIDYA:  Of course. 

SMERCONISH:  What do you have? 

(CROSSTALK)

YEDIDYA:  It‘s an original tune I just recorded in Hollywood.  How funny.  I didn‘t make it to Hollywood with “American Idol,” but I was there just last week, launching an original song to the radio.

Let me give you just the intro, OK?

SMERCONISH:  Please do.   Yes. 

(MUSIC)

SMERCONISH:  What do you think, Kennedy? 

KENNEDY:  That‘s—another Carrie Underwood right there. 

(LAUGHTER)

SMERCONISH:  Would you—come on.  Would you send our man, Haggai Yedidya, out to Hollywood or not? 

KENNEDY:  No. 

I mean, you think “American Idol” is cruel.  Go on message boards and see how cruel fans are.  They‘re far more cruel than Simon Cowell or a music critic from “Rolling Stone” or “Blender.” 

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  Carmen, are you giving him a thumbs up?  Are you sending him to Hollywood?

RASMUSEN:  Thumbs up.  I would send him to Hollywood.  Awesome job. 

SMERCONISH:  You‘re a softy.

Hey, you know what?  I would send him to Hollywood as well.  After all, we‘re a country that loves to slow down and look at car accidents, aren‘t we? 

RASMUSEN:  Right.  Exactly. 

SMERCONISH:  And isn‘t that part of the explanation?

I mean, Kennedy, come on.  We love to see tragedy on television.  This is like throwing people to the lions in the Roman Coliseum.  

KENNEDY:  No, because the people are throwing themselves to the lions. 

They know what they‘re doing.  This is the fifth year this show has been on.  They know what they‘re getting themselves in to.  It‘s no surprise that Simon Cowell can be very cutting and very honest and, frankly, these people know what they‘re subjecting themselves to.  And it is entertaining.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  That‘s my point when I say if you try out for the circus and you don‘t make it, you can‘t claim, oh, my God, it was a circus. 

Hey, Haggai Yedidya, I need to ask you, behind the scenes, talk to me about Randy, talk to me about Paula, and, most importantly, talk to me about Simon.  What is he like? 

YEDIDYA:  I will tell you something.

Behind the scenes, what you see on TV is the fourth edition.  And that means everybody you have seen there spent three days probably sleeping just a bit and probably not eating much, because they were so excited in the three days passing, one audition after the other. 

And, to my opinion, when you go to such a thing, you know Randy or Paula or Simon or somebody will be very harsh to you.  But that‘s not the point.  The point to me is that you need to be ready to eat.  And you take so much of the best of yourself from every day to another, that, by the end of this three days, even if you didn‘t make it to Hollywood, you won.  You won that you became a bigger person.

RASMUSEN:  Amen.

SMERCONISH:  You have a great attitude.  What I‘m worried about are the young people who are crying out there on your behalf. 

Carm, isn‘t that the truth?  Come on.  You have got all these kids who are glued to their TVs who are wearing their emotions on their sleeve because of a guy like Haggai Yedidya. 

RASMUSEN:  I know.  That‘s “American Idol.”  People get entertained and the other people get their 15 minutes of fame and everyone walks away happy. 

SMERCONISH:  Kennedy, what do you think about the young kids and the effect it‘s having on future Haggai Yedidyas? 

KENNEDY:  You know what I think about this show?

It‘s not “Dr. Phil.”  It‘s not supposed to be therapy.  It‘s an entertainment show.  And I think, for young kids, what it shows them is, realistically, it‘s really, really, really hard to succeed at something that you love.  And, therefore, in order to succeed at it, you have to be great.  You have to have natural talent.  And guess what?  Now, you may not like to hear this, but you have to look good, too. 

SMERCONISH:  Yes. 

KENNEDY:  Would you buy Beyonce‘s record if she weighed 450 pounds? 

Probably not.

SMERCONISH:  I buy classic rock.  I wouldn‘t be purchasing Beyonce‘s records, anyway.  So I‘m the wrong guy to ask.

(LAUGHTER)

KENNEDY:  All right, Don Henley.  Break it down.

(LAUGHTER)

SMERCONISH:  Hey, guys, thanks for being here. 

YEDIDYA:  Thank you very much.

SMERCONISH:  I want to thank Haggai Yedidya, Kennedy, and Carmen Rasmusen.

Haggai, play us something going out to break.  Can you do that quickly? 

YEDIDYA:  Of course. 

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  Go ahead, my friend.

YEDIDYA:  To play something?

SMERCONISH:  Please.

YEDIDYA:  And I will use this opportunity to bless America. 

SMERCONISH:  Amen to that.

YEDIDYA:  ... and the country I‘m coming from, which is Israel.

(MUSIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH:  Welcome back. 

Our government says it needs help from Internet search giant Google to help keep kids safe from online porn, but Google‘s not cooperating, claiming privacy concerns.

However, the company is singing a much different tune when it comes to cooperating with communist China.  What‘s going on here? 

Joining us tonight, New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith and Debra Saunders, columnist for “The San Francisco Chronicle.” 

Debra, let me start with you. 

I‘m halfway through a great book about Google.  You know, peace, love and understanding abound.  You get to do your laundry there.  You bring your dog to work.  One out of five days, you get to goof off.  The company motto is, don‘t be evil.  And yet they‘re in bed with communist China.  Aren‘t they hypocrites?

DEBRA SAUNDERS, “THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE”:  Well, I think there‘s this real conceit at Google and a lot of high-tech companies around here. 

There are people that think, hey, we‘re young, we‘re rich, we‘re smart, we‘re tech-savvy.  That makes us good.  And we‘re seeing, with Google being in bed with China, that, no, they‘re sort of just like an oil company, really. 

SMERCONISH:  Congressman Smith, ethics are ethics, but when Google can make a buck, they are going to take a buck. 

Give us an example.  If you and I were in China and we were utilizing the Google search engine made available to the Chinese and we wanted to put in, let‘s say, Tiananmen Square, what are we going to find? 

REP. CHRIS SMITH ®, NEW JERSEY:  Well, Michael all of your viewers can actually do that. 

Go to Google.cn.  Click on either images or news.  And then type in Tiananmen Square.  And what you will get are all these wonderful pictures of flowers and people with big smiling faces on Tiananmen Square.

If you go to Google.com and type in Tiananmen Square, you get pictures of people being bayonetted and all of the terrible events that unfolded when the flower of democracy, people who were just asking for basic, fundamental freedoms, were gunned down in the streets. 

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  And let‘s be clear, Congressman.  The reason for the dichotomy, sir, is because the Chinese have demanded censorship from Google, and Google has accommodated them in that regard. 

SMITH:  They have now become complicit with both the secret police and the propaganda organs of China. 

There was a man, Shi Tao, who actually worked for a communications journal in Beijing, who simply sent what came from the propaganda office in China, how the Tiananmen Square massacre was supposed to be dealt with.  He passed that on to a New York organization.  And for that, he got 10 years, when in this case Yahoo opened up their e-mail data to the secret police and then actually partnered with the secret police in going after this man by making this all-important information available to them. 

SMERCONISH:  So, it‘s not just Google.

SMITH:  That‘s right. 

SMERCONISH:  Because Google, that‘s the company that‘s getting hammered.  But there are a number of these search engines.

SMITH:  Without a doubt.

SMERCONISH:  Congressman, what are you going to do about this? 

SMITH:  Well, we are going to have a hearing on the 15th of this month. 

We have actually been working on it for several months.  And I have legislation that I‘m preparing for introduction next week that has a number of components, including ensuring that e-mail servers from U.S.  corporations are based outside of repressive countries like China, like Vietnam, so that the secret police cannot become a partner with these corporations in crushing legitimate human rights, advocacy, religious freedom advocates, and the like. 

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH:  And that‘s what they‘re actually doing.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  And, Debra, let me just point out that, at the same time that you have got Google cooperating with communist China, they‘re uncooperative with regard to the Bush administration in trying to clamp down on Internet porn.  That‘s really the contradiction, isn‘t it?

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH:  That‘s a total contradiction. 

As a matter of fact, we are talking about—obscenity is not protected speech.  Even the U.S. Supreme Court has found that to be the case.  And what the Justice Department has asked for is simply access to the Web sites, the URLs, to find out—to try to boost our case for a federal statute that is now under court review with regards to the issue of obscenity and the protection of children. 

(CROSSTALK)

SAUNDERS:  Can I say something?

SMERCONISH:  Yes, please do.

SAUNDERS:  Here‘s the problem. 

Google is putting itself forward by saying no to the Bush administration in attempts to sort of deal with kids getting access to porn.  They‘re standing up and they‘re saying, no, we are for privacy rights.  And then they‘re in bed with China?  It just doesn‘t work for people. 

And I‘m a little skeptical about whether or not we can really pass a law that tells companies like Google that they can‘t do this, but I think if consumers start getting skeptical, that that is something Google would have to pay attention to.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH:  Look, I wish we had more time on it, but, unfortunately, we don‘t.

I want to thank Congressman Chris Smith and Debra Saunders for being with us on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH:  I hope people will check this out, Google.cn, and type in torture, and you will get a complete redirection to “The People‘s Daily” and the propaganda organ of China. 

SMERCONISH:  Thank you, Congressman.  We appreciate it. 

SMITH:  Thank you. 

SMERCONISH:  I‘m joined now by Tucker Carlson, host of “THE SITUATION

WITH TUCKER CARLSON.”

Tucker, what‘s going on, on “THE SITUATION” tonight?

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON”:  Michael it‘s great to see you in that seat.  Listen to this quote.

SMERCONISH:  Yes. 

CARLSON:  Quote: “The Republican Party would have the American flag and the swastika flying side by side.”  That‘s from NAACP Chairman Julian Bond from a speech last night. 

Here‘s the question we‘ll address tonight.  Why do people still take this guy seriously?  It‘s ridiculous.

Then, speaking of serious, we will have the author of “Confessions of a Naughty Mommy”—and, no, she‘s not a schoolteacher—“How I Found My Lost Libido” after having children.  This is a subject dear to the hearts of many young parents, worth listening to tonight. 

SMERCONISH:  I will be staying up late, I can tell you now.

CARLSON:  Oh, good.

(LAUGHTER)

SMERCONISH:  Thank you, Tucker. 

CARLSON:  Thanks, Michael.

SMERCONISH:  Be sure to tune into “THE SITUATION” next at 11:00. 

And up next, here on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, a wild scene to show you.  Why is this crowd so angry and so desperate to get to what is beyond this gate?  Wait until you hear this one. 

And Joe is not here, but there‘s still a schmoe to reveal.  That is coming up.  Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

First stop, the highways of America, where the nation‘s truckers want Coca-Cola to can its planned Super Bowl ad.  The commercial features a large truck filled with Coke‘s energy drink, Full Throttle, they call it, forcing a smaller car filled with rival Red Bull off the road. 

The American Trucking Association wants to slam the brakes on the ad, saying it reinforces a negative stereotype of truckers.  Coke won‘t comment on the ad, but says that it has responded to the truckers‘ concern. 

Next, to New York City, where a 100-pound woman chomped her way to victory in the World Grilled Cheese Eating Championship.  Sonya Thomas ate 26 sandwiches in just 10 minutes.  Thomas is known as the black widow on competitive eating circuits.  She holds numerous records, including 11 pounds of cheesecake in nine minutes and 56 hamburgers in eight minutes.

And one more thing we want to show you.  Hong Kong‘s Disney Land was not the happiest place on Earth today.  More than 100 people tried to force their way into the sold-out park.  Angry crowds grabbed fences and even tried to lift their children over the fence to gain entry.  The park is crowded with visitors from mainland China on vacation for the Chinese new year.  Most of the people denied entry had tickets, but were unable to go because the park was at capacity.  Too bad.

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

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH:  It‘s time for “Joe‘s Schmoe.”

And being from Philadelphia, this is an easy call.  It‘s Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.  He came out swinging at his former teammate Terrell Owens. 

Now, you will remember Owens from this controversial clip on “Monday Night Football.”  Well, last year, T.O. suggested the Eagles would have been better off with Packers quarterback Brett Favre at the helm. 

McNabb showed tremendous restraint for many, many months in not responding to T.O.  What a shame that, when he did respond, he chose to play the race card.  When McNabb was asked about Owens, he responded by calling his comments—quote—“black-on-black crime.”

What?  To compare a couple of pampered millionaire athletes to the struggles of African-Americans on the street is outrageous and it‘s inexcusable.  Donovan McNabb is tonight‘s “Joe‘s Schmoe.”

That‘s all the time that we have for tonight.  I‘m Michael Smerconish. 

Thank you for this privilege, Joe Scarborough. 

“THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” starts right now. 

Tucker, what‘s the situation tonight? 

CARLSON:  Well, it‘s nice to see you, Michael.  Thanks a lot. 

SMERCONISH:  Thank you. 

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

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.

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