updated 2/8/2006 12:58:21 PM ET 2006-02-08T17:58:21

Guests: Debra Opri, Gloria Allred, Kenneth Freundlich, Kennedy, Carmen  Rasmusen, Beth Holloway Twitty, Sheila Jackson Lee, Amy Sullivan

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, funeral politics.  America paid its last respects today to Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King, right here in Atlanta, Georgia.  But was the celebration of this remarkable woman‘s life overshadowed by political comments from some of the speakers?  Was this funeral of this great lady really the place go politicking? 

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.  I appreciate it.

I‘m in Atlanta tonight, the scene of that extraordinary funeral today for Coretta Scott King.  Now, of course, it was attended by President Bush and his three predecessors.  We will tell you all about that later.

Also tonight, “American Idol”‘s iron fist.  That‘s right.  The powerhouse TV sensation is also an 800-pound gorilla behind the scenes.  And Kelly Clarkson, for one, is speaking out against them.  But are the powers behind the show going too far and are the young contestants being the ones who are being exploited? 

Plus, oops, I won‘t do that again.  The picture that says it all.  Britney Spears is now defending herself against charges she is a terrible mother for what‘s seen in this photo.  We will talk about that and much more.

But, first, what was supposed to be a graceful farewell to the widow of Martin Luther King was marred, I believe, by partisan attacks on the president of the United States.  A reverend and former President Jimmy Carter used the occasion to play politics.  Take a listen. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REVEREND JOSEPH LOWERY, SOUTHERN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE:  We

know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. 

(APPLAUSE)

LOWERY:  But Coretta knew and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. 

(APPLAUSE)

LOWERY:  Millions without health insurance.  Poverty abounds.  For war, billions more, but no more for the poor. 

JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The struggle for equal rights is not over.  We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. 

(APPLAUSE)

CARTER:  It was difficult for them personally with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the targets of secret government wiretapping, other surveillance. 

(APPLAUSE)

CARTER:  Those who are most devastated by Katrina to know that they are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans. 

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  With me now to talk about what went on today in Atlanta is Tucker Carlson.  He‘s host of “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON.”  Also with us is Amy Sullivan.  She‘s editor of “The Washington Monthly.”

Tucker, I want to begin with you. 

It reminds me so much of that Wellstone funeral in 2002.  Democrats out there maybe saying, Scarborough, you need to get over it.  Let the Democrats attack the president.

But doesn‘t that turn off millions and millions of Americans when you exploit a funeral to make partisan attacks? 

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON”:  Well, it‘s completely graceless.  It‘s also rude as hell, by the way, since the president is sitting right there. 

I mean, these are people that—many of the speakers are people who have pulpits, literally, in some cases, figuratively in all cases, where they can make their case against the president.  And they have the right to do it, and I never begrudge them that.  But a funeral is not the place to do that.

A funeral is a place to make transcendent points about the nature of life and death and to celebrate the person who has died.  It‘s not the place to talk about the politics of the moment, and to do so, again, in a pretty graceless and heavy-handed way.  I think it‘s a reflection, without drawing too large a point from this, that there are people in America for whom politics is the most important thing.  And I think some of them spoke today.  I don‘t think most Americans feel that way.

For the average American, politics is not the most important thing. 

And so, that‘s why most Americans don‘t go on political rants at funerals. 

Sheila Jackson Lee, congresswoman from Texas, it‘s great to be talking to you again.

You know what struck me as discordant in this funeral service is that the fact that both Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King were great people who understood that it was their job to bring everybody together, and played it down the middle a little bit more, and I certainly never saw Coretta Scott King go after President Bush, when you—you knew she was opposed to most of his policies.  That‘s not the point.

But why would they drag partisan politics into a funeral for this great lady? 

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS:  Well, you know, Joe, you‘re very right.  Both Martin King and Coretta King were enormously dedicated, committed, and passionate people. 

And they were warriors, if you will.  They were drum majors for social justice and equality.  I‘m sorry that some have misconstrued passion, conviction and maybe a little tartness for being disrespectful and being political.

These were movement people, by and large.  And, yes, America was watching, but so was Coretta Scott King.  She was a movement person.  She understood that you fought for social justice issues.  And I might say that Reverend Lowery, who is the president emeritus of the SCLC, senior in status, creative, colorful, but passionate. 

And if you watched President Bush the father, he came back and, if you will, did a little exchanging of jabs of with Joe Lowery, understanding that his passion may cause in him to be creative in his words.  But if you took the funeral as a whole, it was a tribute to the fact that Coretta Scott King never allowed the dream to be extinguished.

And in doing so, in life, she took on unpopular causes.  You heard repeatedly that she supported the idea of rights for gays and lesbians.  That was said in the funeral.  She supported, if you will, peace over war.  She was against the Iraq war, and she said it.  If some of the speakers attributed her values to her and to them, I don‘t believe necessarily it was an indictment of the president of the United States. 

The president was there.  That‘s the statement that was made to the American people.  And I‘m glad that he was there, and I‘m glad for his words. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Congresswoman, he was there, and I think that‘s again what Tucker was saying earlier, is, certainly, Coretta Scott King has shared the stage with George W. Bush, has never attacked him like that. 

And, Amy Sullivan, I want to go back to the point that I made before about the partisan politicking not being helpful.  We remember again in 2002 during Paul Wellstone‘s funeral, a lot of people were offended by Bill Clinton smiling and clapping and this Democratic pep rally that a lot of people think actually cost Walter Mondale that Senate seat in 2002. 

Now you have not only the attacks on the president.  You have got Bill Clinton standing up and, more or less, announcing that his wife is going to be running for president in 2008.  Is that really appropriate? 

AMY SULLIVAN, EDITOR, “THE WASHINGTON MONTHLY”:  Joe, I didn‘t hear anything at that funeral that wasn‘t in the spirit of the Kings‘ lives and legacy.  Both Reverend King and Mrs. King spent their lives speaking truth to power.  And, if nothing else, that‘s what you heard today from President Carter and from Reverend Lowery. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Have you ever heard of Coretta Scott King standing on stage with George W. Bush and attacking him the way Lowery attacked him?  And I‘m not just talking about Bush.  I‘m talking about anybody.

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN:  I find it interesting that with both the Wellstone funeral and with this funeral today, which were both celebrations of two very important lives, people have come out and they want to censor what was said. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  No, no.  They weren‘t celebration of lives.  They were attacks. 

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN:  ... don‘t get to censor what we say when we are alive and censor what we say when we are dead.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  There‘s a difference between celebrating what this remarkable woman did or what Paul Wellstone did, who was a remarkable progressive. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second.  And taking the microphone, when people come to hear you talk about these people‘s lives, and instead turning around and attacking politicians.

SULLIVAN:  Yes.  And what‘s wrong with that?  You know what?  You don‘t get to control what happens in a funeral. 

And if this is how people wanted to celebrate the lives of—the life of Mrs. King, which I think is entirely appropriate, this is what they did. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Tucker Carlson.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  This is—I‘m sorry, Amy.  This is not in any way an attack on the right of the speakers of that funeral to say whatever they want.  It‘s an attack on their manners and their taste and their good sense. 

SULLIVAN:  Well, Tucker, you disagree with them.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  You can also eat with your hands, but you don‘t. 

SULLIVAN:  Oh, come on, Tucker. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I‘m serious. 

SULLIVAN:  Come on.

CARLSON:  There is a difference between a funeral and a political rally.  And if you can‘t see it, I don‘t think you can be taught it.

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN:  This is a president who always wants to control the audience that he is around.

CARLSON:  Nobody is trying to control anything.

SULLIVAN:  He always does.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I‘m not speaking for Bush.

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN:  So, when people have a chance to actually come talk to him and it happens to be a funeral, well, then it‘s a funeral.  But that was their chance to express their displeasure with what is going on in the policies. 

CARLSON:  That doesn‘t make it not vulgar.  It was vulgar.  Come on. 

You obviously didn‘t watch it. 

JACKSON LEE:  Joe, I was there.  And...

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN:  Oh, I watched it, just like you didn‘t watch the Wellstone funeral. 

(CROSSTALK)

JACKSON LEE:  I was, frankly, there. 

And let me just say to you, it was a joyous celebration.  And the spirit of Coretta Scott King‘s life was not broken by words that people offered out of their own passion.

Let me just put in context.  Joe Lowery, the words you remember are weapons of mass destruction.  There were none.  And that there were weapons of misdirection.  His misdirections were talking about the social ills in our society.  They exist, whether or not it‘s President Clinton who‘s president, President Bush I or President Bush II. 

We still have social ills that have not been cured.  It‘s evident that there are people suffering from the lack of government action of Hurricane Katrina.  These are issues that Mrs. King spoke to and believed in, or at least her life spoke to, Martin King spoke to. 

He was assassinated on the way to the historic Poor People‘s March in 1968.  Now, in that auditorium, might I say to you, albeit, it might have been a level of discomfort.  Maybe there are words of discomfort that even President Carter might have said, as he spoke to the Katrina suffering. 

But I believe that President Bush, our president, came because he was committed to the life of Coretta Scott King.  He offered his words of sympathy.  He was welcomed enthusiastically by the audience.  He was not condemned by the audience.  People who got up and spoke of their own convictions, as Amy said, it was a celebration. 

The tone was not broken.  We celebrated her life.  We celebrated Bernice King‘s words.  And we celebrated the family.  And it was a tribute to Mrs. King. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Tucker, let me have you respond to that. 

If this is what she fought for during her life, then what‘s wrong with talking about it during her funeral? 

CARLSON:  I agree with both the congresswoman and Amy that a lot of the funeral was celebrating the life of Coretta Scott King, whose life was a very political life. 

And I agree.  There‘s nothing wrong with saying that.  And most of the funeral, I thought, was—was great.  But there‘s no denying that not only were partisan politics injected into it by former President Carter, who, by the way, Congresswoman, was not a member of the movement, as far as I know. 

They were partisan politics, but also the politics of the moment.  There were explicit references to, you know, the domestic spying, to the search for WMD.  You really were sort of waiting for the line-item veto to come up. 

That—my only point is, look, it‘s a taste question.  This is a time to contemplate the hereafter, life and death, big issues. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, Tucker—Tucker, and this is my point.  I guess this is my biggest problem with it is that somebody like Coretta Scott King and her husband, they transcend the Iraq war. 

CARLSON:  Well, you would hope so. 

SCARBOROUGH:  They transcend NSA wiretapping.  They transcend all these little nitpicking issues.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  It seems so small.  Exactly.  That‘s exactly right.  it seems so tiny.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Compared to the grand scope of history.

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN:  Joe, this was a couple who got very involved in the politics of their time, whether it was opposing the Vietnam War, whether it was working for...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Please, let me just say for one second.

But Martin Luther King may have talked some about the Vietnam War, but he was about social justice.  He was about bigger issues. 

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN:  And that‘s what they were talking about today.  They were talking about social justice. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  You got to let me finish my point.

The Iraq war is going to be over in a couple of years.  What the Kings fought for and what they—the battles they won will be with us, hopefully, for centuries.  So, why reduce it to these partisan fights that are going to be gone in a couple of years? 

JACKSON LEE:  Because, Joe, they‘re not partisan fights.  The one thing that the Kings stood for is that they did not stand for standing silently by, while injustices that they perceive were happening occurred. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But Coretta Scott King never acted the way in front of George Bush that Lowery did today.

(CROSSTALK)

JACKSON LEE:  They would not stand idly by while the war is raging, while people are suffering an injustice.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  No, no, no.  She was never tactless, like this. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Sheila, listen to me.  You have got listen to me. 

Respond.

(CROSSTALK)

JACKSON LEE:  I want to listen.  Why don‘t you respond and let me—and then I will respond to you?

SCARBOROUGH:  Because I have heard you say this about three times. 

Tell me, have you ever heard Coretta Scott King attack a politician, including George W. Bush, on the same stage, the way Lowery attacked Bush today? 

JACKSON LEE:  Well, let me just say this.  You‘re missing the point. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes or no? 

(CROSSTALK)

JACKSON LEE:  First of all, you‘re nitpicking over one or two or three speakers, and not looking at the holistic view of the many messages that came forward. 

In fact, you‘re denigrating the president‘s remarks by not highlighting his remarks, and highlighting the minister‘s remarks, highlighting her daughter‘s eulogy. 

There were those who felt passionate enough to say what they felt on their heart and what the Kings and Coretta Scott King represented.  I would say this to you, that Coretta Scott King would never step in the way of people‘s passion and convictions on the issues of social justice and peace.  And that‘s what those messages came out today. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Amy Sullivan and Tucker Carlson, thanks so much. 

The bottom line is, again, I saw Coretta Scott King in speeches with President Bush.  I saw her being very graceful.  We all knew that she disagreed with George Bush on many issues, but she never behaved the way they behaved today at her funeral.  It was unfortunate.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  The biggest “American Idol” yet, Kelly Clarkson, comes out swinging, talking about the tough tactics used against her and other “Idol” contestants.  Is “American Idol” exploiting young stars?

We will have that and much more when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  New developments tonight in the Natalee Holloway case.

While prime suspect Joran van der Sloot attends college in Holland, Natalee‘s family and friends continue to pray for answers.  This week, Joran‘s parents lashed out at Beth Holloway Twitty, the Aruban authorities, and the U.S. media. 

Now, we are going to hear from Beth Twitty live in just a minute.

But first, listen to Joran‘s parents on American television this morning. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “GOOD MORNING AMERICA”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You have said in the past that Beth Holloway is always welcome here. 

PAUL VAN DER SLOOT, FATHER OF JORAN VAN DER SLOOT:  Yes. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you still feel that way?

P. VAN DER SLOOT:  I think, when she wants to talk, we will talk.  But of course she has to explain something.  I think she has done a lot of damage to Joran and our family.

That she‘s not giving up for her girl that, that we understood.  But that she is calling our son a rapist, that‘s awful. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  I want to welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, Natalee Holloway‘s mom, Beth Holloway Twitty, who joins us live from Birmingham. 

Beth, respond to the charges by Paulus van der Sloot that you have—quote—“done a lot of damage.”

BETH HOLLOWAY TWITTY, MOTHER OF NATALEE HOLLOWAY:  Joe, I have not done the damage to Joran.  All I have done is share information that Joran has given voluntarily to witnesses, and officials, police officials, interrogators.  You know, Joran caused the damage to himself. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So what was your reaction watching this family on TV this morning? 

HOLLOWAY TWITTY:  Well, I think my first thought is, I don‘t know why they‘re coming out now, you know, almost nine months later. 

And, you know, we have pleaded with them to come out in the media earlier.  I lived on the island of Aruba for four months.  And I would have done anything to have had an opportunity to meet with Paulus.  After all, I initiated that one meeting at his home.  And, you know, I would have never denied him a meeting or Anita. 

I think that it was something that I was desperately trying to do and keep myself available while I was living there. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You met them up close obviously at that meeting.  Tell me, what were they like?  Compare those parents that you met back then to what you saw this morning on television.

HOLLOWAY TWITTY:  Well, really, the most significant one that‘s changed of course is Paulus van der Sloot.  He‘s a completely different man than the one that was seated before me during the month of June. 

And there are so many things that are different.  This was a man that, Joe, I had to call him from the bushes.  He could not even maintain eye contact with me.  He was tremoring just pretty significantly, sweating to where his wife had to wipe it from the table. 

This is not the same man that was seated before me.  This seems to be now a much more confident man.  And that‘s a concern of mine. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Would you say he‘s cold and calculated, that remember—obviously, you remember better than anybody when we heard that he reportedly said to the boys, no body, no crime.  You think that he thinks that he got rid of the body, so he and the boys are in the clear? 

HOLLOWAY TWITTY:  It does concern me that Paulus van der Sloot has tied up many loose ends. 

And we have to look at what‘s going on right now on the island.  They have sworn him in as an attorney.  And not only that, he‘s joined the law firm of his son‘s attorney, the 19 that represented Joran.  And I just feel that these loose ends are being tied with a tight knot.  And he must be getting backing from the government.  He just—it is concerning me that he seems to be moving past things. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Talk about the mother, if you will.  You seemed before to have more of an affinity for her.  What can you tell us about her?

HOLLOWAY TWITTY:  Well, I really think that Anita van der Sloot is just in denial from her son.  I don‘t think that—you know, I just think that, you know, she just cannot accept the fact that Joran has lived this lifestyle, has been gambling senselessly since he was probably 15, 16. 

He‘s had a VIP pass at Carlos ‘n Charlie‘s since he was at least 16.  She sees the pictures that he displays on the Web sites, you know, where he has young girls, you know, licking him in certain positions.  I mean, she just is in complete denial of who her son really is. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And when we talked to her right after Natalee disappeared, this is what she said in June when I asked her if Joran had said anything about Natalee in the days following her disappearance. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANITA VAN DER SLOOT, MOTHER OF JORAN VAN DER SLOOT:  On the Monday, he went to school, like any normal boy.   And he wasn‘t aware of—he was totally surprised when the police asked him to come to the—or picked him up for interrogation.   He was totally surprised.   He really thought that the girl would be safe in the hotel and there was no reason to talk about her at all. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Beth, it appears that she was lied to then.  Do you think that she has now gotten on board, possibly, with the husband and the whole family, and now she‘s lying to cover up for the misdeeds of her son? 

HOLLOWAY TWITTY:  No, I don‘t, Joe. 

And the reason why is, look who is pushed out forward.  Look who has most of the comments when they do the interviews.  It‘s Anita.  She‘s the one that he pushes for, because she does seem to not—she just doesn‘t seem to have the information. 

And after all she was in Holland when this happened.  You know, I don‘t even know when she returned from Holland.  It was certainly not within the first couple of days.  But it would be interesting to see when she actually departed and arrived in Aruba.  So, she has no knowledge of what—of if Joran went to school or the things that happened.

She just—they have just kept her out.  Otherwise, Paulus van der Sloot would not be pushing her forward during these interviews. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  So, you think they have lied?  You think that Paul has lied to her and is now using her as his front person? 

HOLLOWAY TWITTY:  Well, it appears to me that she‘s always the one who‘s the most verbal and gives the most information during these interviews.  When you think about it, most of the statements are coming from her. 

And he‘s always tended to push her out in the forefront of this because I think that she doesn‘t seem to have the knowledge that he and Joran van der Sloot possess. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Have you had any contact with either of these people since June? 

HOLLOWAY TWITTY:  No. 

I have not been able to have contact with them since—it was probably the middle of June.  That was the last time.  And they had specifically stated that they would not meet with me again. 

SCARBOROUGH:  But it looks like that may have changed. 

Would you be willing to meet with them if they decided to change their mind and invite you? 

(CROSSTALK)

HOLLOWAY TWITTY:  You know, Joe, I think it‘s nine months too late.  And I don‘t really think there‘s anything that we could discuss and come up with any type of resolution. 

I think that I was there early on.  They knew that I was willing to meet with them.  I desperately tried.  I live there for four months.  It‘s nine months too late now, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Beth, hey, thanks a lot for being with us tonight. 

And know, as always—everybody—people always come up to me and ask about you.  And you obviously know that you have so many people in America and across the world thinking of you and praying for you and your family.  So, thanks for being with us. 

HOLLOWAY TWITTY:  Thank you, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Good night. 

Coming up next, “American Idol,” the champion show, plays rough behind the scenes.  That‘s what some are saying.  And young contestants may be the ones who are being exploited.  The “American Idol” machine and Kelly Clarkson‘s words about it coming up next. 

And, later, remember this video from the bad parenting hall of fame? 

Well, we have got a new entry coming up.  And it‘s Britney. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Is Britney Spears guilty of recklessly endangering her baby boy?  Well, see the photos and hear what our experts have to say straight ahead. 

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

(NEWS BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  There‘s nothing wrong with putting your baby on your lap, unless you‘re driving down a busy highway.  Is Britney Spears just the latest celebrity parent gone crazy? 

And some drivers in LaLa Land are in for quite a surprise the next time they turn their keys over to a valet.  You will see why. 

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

But, first, does “American Idol” play fair with young contestants?  Well, “Idol” champ Kelly Clarkson wants everybody to know she was forced into starring in a flop movie, “From Justin to Kelly,” when she signed her “American Idol” contract. 

According to a new “TIME” magazine article, it‘s just the latest glimpse into the tight control “Idol” has over every fame-hungry contestant.  And some are now saying the show‘s tactics are crossing the line to unfair exploitation. 

With me now to talk about it, we have got former “Idol” contestant Carmen Rasmusen.  We also have Kennedy.  She‘s the host of Fox‘s “Reality Remix.”  And, in Los Angeles, we have entertainment attorney Kenneth Freundlich. 

Ken, let me start with you.

Talk about what goes on with “American “Idol”” and these contracts. 

Are they exploiting these young stars? 

KENNETH FREUNDLICH, ENTERTAINMENT ATTORNEY:  The problem is that there are conflicts of interest that are set up. 

When somebody signs the “Idol” contract, they‘re signed for management.  They‘re signed for touring.  They‘re signed for merchandising, all the things, so that when the contestants get to the final rounds or in Kelly‘s case win, they have to do things like make lousy movies just because at the whim of the 19 producers.  They wanted to do that.

And that‘s not necessarily good for an artist, because they need to have control over their careers and hopefully independent management and other independent people advising them along the way. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, basically they‘re bought, bought and sold by this “American Idol” media machine, right? 

FREUNDLICH:  That‘s what it appears to be. 

In Kelly‘s case, as time progressed, she was able to get herself free of it with—and now has independent management.  I read in “TIME” magazine that she said that she saw her manager five times in the last three years, which is pretty unacceptable.  You should be able to see your manager every day, or at least speak to them every day. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Carmen, you were on the show.  Talk about “American “Idol.” 

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

SCARBOROUGH:  Obviously, a lot of people, Kelly Clarkson talking about how she was forced to make lousy movies and just how controlling this organization is.  Talk about it. 

RASMUSEN:  Well, obviously, we were given a contract about this thick when we were on “American Idol” that had tabs that said sign here.  But we were able to look over the entire contract and actually hire an entertainment attorney to look over everything for us and say, OK, this is good, this is bad.

And we knew that we didn‘t have to sign the contract if we didn‘t want to.  But we all willingly signed our name on the X, and said, all right, great, if I make it, then we will go from there.  But Kelly Clarkson obviously did not have to sign this recording contract.  She did so and a lot of people would kill to be in her shoes to get a recording contract and have it handed to her on a silver platter. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Carmen, at what stage do they come to you with this big fat contract and make you sign it? 

RASMUSEN:  As soon as you make the top 12.  As soon as you make the top 12, then we were gathered into a room.  And they said, OK, you‘re going to be given a contract.  You can call attorneys.

This is what it says.  We were all given a copy.  We were able to call people and talk about it.  And then we signed it.  So we knew exactly how long we would be with the 19 management.  And we knew exactly how long it would be until we‘re released and everything.  So, there were no surprises when I was on the show.

SCARBOROUGH:  But you‘re in the final 12 of “American “Idol.” 

RASMUSEN:  Right. 

SCARBOROUGH:  They could basically tell you to cut off your left hand.  You‘re still going to sign it with your right hand, because there‘s no way you‘re going to walk away from this opportunity, right? 

RASMUSEN:  Well, exactly.  It is an awesome opportunity. 

Obviously, we weren‘t going to do anything that was stupid, that would hurt ourselves.  But we all wanted a chance to be the next “American Idol.”  So, we were all willing to put our name on that contract.  In every recording contract, there are some things that you don‘t want to do, obviously.  So, you negotiate.  You get the best deal you can.  You say thanks for the opportunity, and then you go for it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Kennedy? 

(CROSSTALK)

FREUNDLICH:  It‘s almost built...

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, go ahead, Ken.

FREUNDLICH:  It‘s almost built in that there‘s going to be some sort of a renegotiation, because it‘s just patently unfair to begin with. 

RASMUSEN:  Right. 

FREUNDLICH:  And you‘re right.  The contestants, by the time you‘re down to the last 12, you have no choice.  You have already been seen by all your friends on television.  They‘re voting for you already.  You‘re all hyped up.  And you‘re going to go ahead with it.

And there‘s—lawyer or no lawyer, you‘re going to sign whatever is put in front of you.  And that‘s—I think the producers have a responsibility to be fair from the get-go, because they‘re making all this money selling the commercial time and “American Idol” T-shirts and God knows whatever else. 

(CROSSTALK)

FREUNDLICH:  Nationwide, national...

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, no doubt about it. 

And the leverage that they have at that point is incredible. 

Now, last year, the Associated Press reported that 19 Productions, the completely that is owned by “American Idol”‘s creator, oversees not just recording deals for “Idol” stars, but also controls merchandising, touring, sponsorship, movie deals and just about everything else.

Kennedy, what‘s your take on “American Idol”‘s iron fist? 

KENNEDY, FORMER MTV VEEJAY:  Well, come on, Joe.  It‘s not an iron fist. 

I think Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, and Carrie Underwood should all be very, very thankful for that iron fist.  Otherwise, they would be singing at their best friends‘ weddings or bar mitzvah, if they got lucky. 

(CROSSTALK)

RASMUSEN:  Exactly. 

KENNEDY:  This is the only show that exposes these people to such a huge platform.  And they all be very, very grateful.  It‘s not indentured servitude.  It‘s not false imprisonment. 

These people are hopefully rational adults.  And if they‘re not, if they‘re like Diana DeGarmo and are 16 years old, hopefully, they have their parents and attorneys looking over these agreements.  They don‘t enter into them just blindly. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Look at “American Idol” winner Ruben Studdard told “Rolling Stone.”

He said: “Without the show, we wouldn‘t be recording artists.  But we did a lot of commercials.  We were exploited, but not exploited.  It also taught us a lot about the business.  ‘American Idol‘ is what we like to call a crash course on the entertainment industry.”

So, Carmen, does it just expose all these young stars to the nasty underbelly of Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Hollywood business? 

(CROSSTALK)

RASMUSEN:  Well, basically, yes.

KENNEDY:  Oh, come on, Joe. 

(CROSSTALK)

RASMUSEN:  Well, we get a crash course, like you said, in the entertainment industry. 

We see what everything is like.  We see everything that goes on behind the scenes, and we chose whether or not we wanted to be on that show.  And it‘s not—you could quit at any time.  If you said, all right, I hate it, just sing bad the next week.  You know what I mean?  And you‘re off. 

But we all chose to be on the show, as Kelly Clarkson did.  And she did one bad movie.  It didn‘t hurt her career.  Obviously it didn‘t hurt “American Idol.”  So...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Kennedy, you act shocked that I said that the entertainment industry may be unsavory.  I would say it‘s probably the second, third sleaziest business, right behind politics and TV.  What do you say?

KENNEDY:  I thought you were going to say prostitution and the circus.

SCARBOROUGH:  Oh, no, no.  Those are like 14 and 15. 

(CROSSTALK)

KENNEDY:  Politicians and the—OK.

Now, Joe, let me just say this.  And this is true.  This is an entertainment show.  And it is incredibly—I cannot wait to get home.  I‘m on the West Coast.  I can‘t wait to get home and watch “American Idol.” 

I‘m so excited to see what‘s going to happen at the Boston tryouts tonight. 

It‘s a great show.  This is the only place these people are going to be exposed to this kind of an audience.  And without it, they wouldn‘t have careers.  And most recording contracts, aside from “American Idol,” take you through seven records, seven full-length original albums. 

RASMUSEN:  Exactly. 

(CROSSTALK)

FREUNDLICH:  Kennedy, the recording contract only takes the records.  It doesn‘t take the touring.  It doesn‘t take the merchandising.  It doesn‘t tell you who your manager is going to be.  How can you get a fair shake in the business?

(CROSSTALK)

KENNEDY:  You know what, though?  Yes, but this is not just a typical

these are not typical artists that are moving their way up through the club scene. 

These are kids who are getting a jump-start on their careers, because they have an age limit on the show, and they‘re able to outperform most other artists by a decade because of this fast launch.  And the entities involved in the show are making a huge investment.  And they want that investment to pay off. 

RASMUSEN:  Exactly. 

(CROSSTALK)

FREUNDLICH:  And they‘re getting huge returns in the advertising and in the T-shirts and the merchandising for “American Idol.” 

And the question is whether they should be going ahead and taking these artists, whose will is overborne by this desire to be on this great show, and then they end up getting stuck in this morass of conflicts. 

(CROSSTALK)

RASMUSEN:  But we weren‘t stuck in the contract. 

All of us “Idol”s knew that we would be off October of 2003.  We were only in the contract for about five to seven months, just enough time to do the show and tour.  And then we were released.

And the other “Idol”s, such as Ruben and Clay, had the option to be picked up.  And they were.  So, we weren‘t bound.  We weren‘t tied down to the contract.  But even if we were, look how far they got.

(CROSSTALK)

FREUNDLICH:  Whose option was it to pick them up?  It wasn‘t their option.

RASMUSEN:  No.  Well, “American Idol.”

(CROSSTALK)

FREUNDLICH:  They didn‘t have a choice.

RASMUSEN:  Well, Clay did, because he didn‘t win.  Ruben Studdard won and got a million dollars, so why wouldn‘t he pick that up? 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Well, we will leave it there.  Thank you so much.

Carmen, Kennedy, you can go home now and see who won. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Kenneth, thank you so much for your insights. 

Greatly appreciate it. 

Now, when we come back, who can forget this shocking display from Michael Jackson?  Well, here we go again.  Britney Spears taking a baby for a drive.  I will tell you what.  As a parent of three, I just cannot believe she could be that reckless and irresponsible.  We will find out what was going on.

And speaking of L.A. and driving, a new service in Southern California raising some eyebrows.  Would you hand over your keys to one of these women? 

Stay with us. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Brand new celebrity mom Britney Spears is in hot water over pictures of her holding her baby on her lap while cruising through L.A. in her SUV.  She clutches the wheel with one hand and her son in the other, instead of putting him in a child seat, as required by law, I think, in just about every state. 

Is it another case of a celebrity who should not be a parent? 

With me now to talk about it, consumer rights attorney Gloria Allred.  She‘s the author of the new book “Fight Back and Win.”  And celebrity defense attorney Debra Opri. 

Let me start with you, Gloria.

Do you think Britney Spears is guilty of being negligent in taking care of her child? 

GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY:  Well, I think it‘s clear that Britney Spears or any person who drives with a baby on their lap, without the baby being properly secured in a car seat in the proper position, is putting their baby at risk of harm. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Gloria, Gloria, look at that; look at that.  The thing is, for parents in the real world, we understand, you don‘t even put infants in the front seat in a child protective seat, because the air bags when they come out they will kill your child.  And she‘s holding this baby in her lap?

(CROSSTALK)

ALLRED:  This is dangerous. 

This is endangering a baby.  And the fact that she‘s out there or her people are out there trying to give an excuse, trying to give a justification, trying to suggest that somehow she‘s protecting her baby from possible harm by paparazzi, is really unacceptable. 

She needs to grow up.  Be an adult.  She‘s a parent.  Accept responsibility, say she did something wrong, she won‘t do it again.  She‘s a role model and she‘s got to set an example.  This is not how a parent or any other person should be treating a child, putting that child at risk of harm. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Debra, look at the picture right now.  That baby right there in the front seat, if...

DEBRA OPRI, DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  I have seen it. 

SCARBOROUGH:  If there had been another car that had come in and hit the front of that and caused the air bag to deploy, that baby would be dead tonight.  That‘s what we would be talking about tonight. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Should the authorities in California not take this—not look at this and see whether Britney Spears is fit to be a parent to that child? 

OPRI:  Joe, there is such a thing as overreaction. 

We are all in agreement that Britney Spears did something foolish.  We‘re all in agreement that it was wrong and it violates the law.  What we are not in agreement is what punishment, if anything, should be meted out to her. 

Britney Spears is a young person, a young parent.  But Britney Spears can certainly say, I made a mistake, but here‘s the mitigating circumstances.  I was scared.  The paparazzi were close.  I overreacted.  I ran.  I was protecting my child. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Wait, wait, wait.  What did she do?

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Did she rip the child out of a safety seat in the back? 

OPRI:  Look at the timing. 

Say Britney Spears explains that she was being pounced on by paparazzi and she reacted quickly.  How long would it take her to put the child in the safety seat, go around to the car, start up without that paparazzi being literally over her?

Now, I don‘t want us to ignore the fact she made a mistake, but I think we should pay emphasis to the paparazzi.  Why aren‘t there certain laws out there protecting these celebrities who are making a point?  They are beacons of representation. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Is it the paparazzi‘s fault, Gloria? 

ALLRED:  No.

You know what?  This is so ridiculous.  And I‘m so sorry.  I‘m sorry.  But this is just so unacceptable, to continue to blame celebrity photographers for the fact that celebrities often don‘t want to take responsibility for their own poor judgment.  And here you‘re talking about endangering a child. 

The celebrity agency that—photography agency suggests that this was

all done in a peaceful context.  Look, the windows were up.  It appears

that there‘s another person in the car, perhaps a bodyguard.  What harm to

the child could a photographer do by just simply taking a picture?  The

harm that could come to the child from being in an accident because she‘s -

the baby is on the mother‘s lap and the car is moving is far greater. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  And, again, the baby is actually—in that picture, the baby is actually leaning into the air bag, which, again, any parent knows, if the air bag deploys, if the child is in the front seat, even in a baby seat, the child dies. 

Let me bring in Kennedy. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Kennedy, you are a celebrity mom, so to speak.  What do you make of this?  What do you make about other celebrity parenting?  Michael Jackson, the crocodile hunter, and all of that garbage, what do you make of this? 

KENNEDY:  These are tiny human beings who can‘t act or speak for themselves. 

And they require so much vigilance on the part of parents.  And if I were being chased by the paparazzi, because, Joe, you know, I live a fabulous Hollywood lifestyle, and I‘m constantly stalked by the paparazzi, you know what I would do if I was in the situation?

She had a passenger in the car.  If she really didn‘t have time to restrain the child—that‘s not that rad—I would have the passenger drive the car.  And, as a mother, I would have gotten in back and held the child, until it was safe to pull over and put him in the car seat. 

It‘s still not the greatest option for a parent. 

(CROSSTALK)

KENNEDY:  But—and I do think, because she married Kevin Federline, and had a baby with him, which shows such poor judgment, in and of itself, and we can‘t prosecute her for that, go after her for the baby thing. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  You know what?  Makes sense to me.

Gloria, Deborah, Kennedy, thank you so much for being with us.

I‘m joined now by Tucker Carlson, a man who would never drive in the front seat with a—Tucker, you know what?  For people that live in the real world, we all know that. 

CARLSON:  Yes.  That‘s where I live.

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘m a dad.  I even know that.  You never put babies, you never put infants in the front seat.

CARLSON:  Well, there‘s an air bag, is the problem. 

SCARBOROUGH:  An air bag will kill them.

CARLSON:  Yes, I like teaching my kids to drive.  Yes, but the air bag is kind of a big deal.  That‘s why I‘m against air bags pretty stridently, but you can‘t take them out. 

SCARBOROUGH:  What are you going to do? 

Tucker, what‘s the situation tonight?

CARLSON:  We‘re going to talk to the Reverend Joseph Lowery, actually.

SCARBOROUGH:  Really?

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  Yes, we are.  We talked about it a minute ago on your show, which has been excellent, by the way, Joe, as it always is.

SCARBOROUGH:  Thank you so much.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  So, we‘re going to talk to the Reverend Joe Lowery, who gave that now famous—I don‘t know what it was—invocation, memorial speech, eulogy, or was it a political speech?  I don‘t know.  We‘re going to ask him tonight, why did he use that opportunity to attack the president and to make a partisan political point?  I don‘t know what he‘s going to say, but I can‘t wait to find out. 

SCARBOROUGH:  you know what, Tucker?  It‘s just tacky.  It really is. 

It‘s tasteless. 

CARLSON:  Yes. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And when I die, God help me if the only thing people have to say at my funeral has to do with politics. 

CARLSON:  Oh, I agree. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I want it to be a politics-free zone.

CARLSON:  I will return with lightning bolts...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  ... to smote down the person who rants about politics at my service. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Exactly.  All right.  Tucker, well, I promise it won‘t be me, buddy. 

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON:  Thank you, Joe.  

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks a lot. 

And make sure you tune into “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” coming up next at 11:00. 

So, what will they think of in LaLa Land next?  How about models in lingerie as valets?  We will show you what that‘s all about coming up. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Remember that old Beatles song, baby, you can drive my car?  Yes, I‘m going to be a star.  Baby, you can drive my car.

Well, it‘s true to life.  And, of course, it‘s from Los Angeles, where a new valet service is bringing new meaning to the phrase, baby, you can drive my car. 

NBC News Mark Mullen reports. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARK MULLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  For thousands of young wanna-be actresses, the jobs are few, the competition fierce; 66 young women at this casting call. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I just thought it would be a really good experience and get exposure. 

MULLEN:  All of them vying for that big break, in this case for the demanding role of a lifetime, the role of:

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hi.  How are you this evening? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hi.

MULLEN:  Parking attendant?  Lots of young women are literally lining up for the chance to park the cars of the rich and famous, make up to 400 bucks in tips nightly, and maybe even get discovered by Hollywood‘s movers and shakers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We are women.  We are beautiful and we are friendly. 

MULLEN:  Twenty-three-year-old Erica Rumsey (ph), a struggling actress from Des Moines, Iowa. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  People are worried when they first see us.  They say, are you models?  Or are you going to drive my car? 

It‘s like, yes, I have got this.  I can drive. 

JOEL STEIN, “THE LOS ANGELES TIMES”:  It‘s land of good-looking women and good-looking cars.  And someone finally has had the genius of putting them together.  And he‘s going to be a billionaire.

MULLEN:  Brad Salzman (ph) is the brains beyond the beauties. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s so Los Angeles.  And it‘s so LaLa Land.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hi there.  How are you tonight?

MULLEN:  Salzman (ph) just merged two companies that offer all-female parking service at trendy restaurants, hotels and private parties.  His company, Valet Girls, now serves a growing niche in the male-dominated world of valet. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Would you rather have me park your car in a red vest, or would you rather have a hot-looking model park your car wearing a bikini or a skirt?

MULLEN (on camera):  With the typical valet service, the male attendant does something called rip and run.  They rip you a ticket, and then they run your car to the parking lot.  But with the women...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Hey there, Mark.  Good evening.  How are you doing tonight? 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Make sure you bring this back at the end of the night. 

MULLEN:  ... it‘s a whole different story. 

(voice-over):  Patrons we spoke with are pleased with the service. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s like Christmas Every day. 

(LAUGHTER)

MULLEN (voice-over):  Mark Mullen, NBC News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCARBOROUGH:  Beep, beep.  Beep, beep.  Yes. 

We will be right back.

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

Stick around.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  That‘s our show tonight, live from Atlanta, Georgia. 

I‘m Joe Scarborough.  Thanks for being with us. 

“THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON” starts right now—Tucker. 

CARLSON:  And a great show it was, Joe.  Thanks a lot.

SCARBOROUGH:  Thanks.

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

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