updated 3/22/2006 11:19:44 AM ET 2006-03-22T16:19:44

Guests: Karen Hanretty, Peter Beinart, Ralph Reed, David Duke, Alan Dershowitz, Pat Lalama, Katrina Szish, Carmen Rasmussen, Giuliana Depandi, Janet Reitman

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Right now it’s SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY. President Bush meets the press and, friends, it gets ugly.  President Bush and reporters go at it in a brass knuckles showdown.  And why were some reporters more interested in debating the president than asking him questions? Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  No passport required.  Only common sense allowed. 

And thanks for being with me tonight.  I really appreciate it.  We are going to have that story in a minute.  Plus, radicalism on college campuses.  We are going to have a disturbing story of a Harvard University report that blames a conspiracy, an Israel lobby of running Washington, DC.  And then an “American Idol” scandal? Well, a report tonight out of south Florida asks whether the mega hit show is being honest with fans about the contestants and who they really are.  It’s a hot one and it’s our SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY showdown. 

But first President Bush meets the press and the press speaks back. 

An hour-long news conference today some reporters seemed less interested in asking questions and more interested in debating the commander in chief. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HELEN THOMAS, JOURNALIST: What was your real reason? You have said it wasn’t oil. It hasn’t been Israel or anything else.  What was it?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think your premise, and all due respect to your question and to you as a life-long journalist that I didn’t want war.  To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen in all due respect.  Hold on for a second, please.  Excuse me.  Excuse me.  No president wants war.  We will do everything in our power to protect our people.  Part of that meant to make sure that we didn’t allow people to provide safe haven to an enemy and that’s why I went into Iraq.  Hold on for a second. Excuse me for a second, please.  Excuse me for a second.  They did. 

THOMAS: How much strain has higher interest rates placed on our consumer confidence?

BUSH: First of all, interest rates are set by an independent organization.  Well, I I’m not quite through with my answer yet.  History has proven that democracies don’t war and so part of the issue is to lay peace, is to give people a chance to live in a peaceful world, where mothers can raise their children without fear of violence or women are free to be able to express themselves. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a difficult—

BUSH: Excuse me a second, David.  Excuse me for a second please. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH: (INAUDIBLE) aside, most members of the media were above posing for the cameras and actually got the president to say that U.S.  troops weren’t going anywhere as long as he was living at the White House.  Despite the fact this president finds himself and his party staring political disaster in the face, it seemed to be the cowboy Bush who showed up at the press conference looking tanned, rested and downright cocky.  With us now to talk about the press, the prez and the crisis in DC, we have Ralph Reed.  He’s an advisor of President Bush and also a candidate for lieutenant governor of Georgia and Peter Beinart. He’s editor at large of “The New Republic.” We’ve got MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and Republican strategist Karen Hanretty. 

You know, Pat, this president, again, looked fairly cocky today.  This is a guy who yesterday went to Cleveland.  He confronted tough questions from the audience.  They don’t normally open them up for questions like that, but he did it.  Today he faced a hostile press corps, held his own.  He even allowed Helen Thomas to ask a question.  What’s going on with this guy? Does he realize he’s in a lot of trouble and he’s going to have to finally face his critics head on?

PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC ANALYST: I think frankly that the president said, look, the polls are down, we’re not doing that well.  We are not sure what the outcome is going to be in Iraq.  I believe I did the right thing.  I made the decision.  I intend to live with it.  I intend to stand my ground. 

He came out confident and as you said, even cocky.  I think he enjoyed sparring with the press, Joe.  I thought he came off excellent today.  I think it was a first-rate press conference, and with regard to Iraq, we all we don’t know what the outcome is, you, I, nobody.  I don’t even think the president knows, but I think he feels comfort with the decision he made, and he knows the opposition doesn’t have any answers. 

SCARBOROUGH: You know, Peter Beinart, let me bring you in here, because  the thing is, while the press went after Bush, Bush also seemed to go after the press.  At one point accusing them—basically accusing him - forget the basically, at one point accusing them of playing into terrorist hands by replaying images over and over every night.  Didn’t you find that striking that the president made those charges against members of the media?

PETER BEINART, THE NEW REPUBLIC: Well, this is not one of the kind of stock lines which is to say there is a lot of really good things that are going on in Iraq but you only see the bad things because that’s what’s on the news.  In fact, the reality is that there are vast numbers of violent acts in Iraq that we don’t see on the news.  The reality in Iraq is very, very grim and that’s why these press conferences don’t really matter very much.  What matters is whether the violence in Iraq stays as high as it is and whether Iraq creates a political leadership.  It would need a remarkable political leadership at this point that could really bring that country back together.  If those things don’t happen, the American people will believe their own eyes, not what they hear from George W. Bush. 

SCARBOROUGH: And, Peter, let’s cut through it all and let’s face it.  This president, like Ronald Reagan, was very popular for the first five years of his presidency, but six years into Reagan’s presidency, Americans stopped listening to Reagan.  You think that’s happening now with Bush when he has these types of press conferences?

BEINART: Well, it’s much worse.  I mean Reagan’s numbers did not get this low and Reagan didn’t have as an issue that was as much of an albatross as this is.  He had Iran-contra which hurt him, but nothing like this, which is a huge millstone around the president’s neck.  So the thing the president can hope is that things on the ground turn around in Iraq.  That’s the only thing that can save him.  These press conferences really only matter at the margin.

SCARBOROUGH: Ralph Reed, as in the final days of Nixon, it appears the press corps today was nasty, brutish and short.  Does this really show us that there is a bigger problem faced by Bush, that he really is losing Middle America?

RALPH REED, PRESIDENT BUSH ADVISOR: No, I don’t think so, Joe.  In fact, my sense in watching today’s news conference was really just the opposite.  I thought the president was poised.  I thought he was confident.  I thought he was eloquent.  I thought he was firm.  And I thought he showed the resolve that the American people would seek from a president at a time of war.  And I thought he pulled off something that is not always easy to do and that is facing a sometimes adversarial press corps.  I think he really talked over their heads directly to the American people, and he said, we’re in a conflict that is serious and grave consequences.  We have a movement of testing for our country.  We have an opportunity to bring about a stable and democratizing Iraq in really the cradle of the Middle East, an opportunity to affect the bloodiest and most dangerous region of the world.  

SCARBOROUGH: All right, Ralph, but you know what, though, America—

Ralph, I hate to cut you off, but people watching you cut you off because they’ve heard this all before.  I believe it.  You believe it.  The president believes it.  But the American people don’t believe it.  His approval ratings are down to 36 percent.  Only 26 percent of Americans think that this country is going in the right direction, and they don’t buy your argument.  They don’t buy the president’s arguments, and they don’t—they don’t buy my arguments.  A recent NBC—a recent ABC New/”Washington Post” poll shows that only 44 percent of Americans polled see the president as honest and trustworthy.  That’s down  from around 50 percent just four months ago and 60 percent from the time the war began just three years ago.  Ralph, people aren’t buying that message, are they?

REED: Well, I wouldn’t really agree with that.  I think that it’s not wise I think to take a snapshot in time.  We’ve got elections later this year.  It will be a choice.  And I think when you look at the other side, the - what the other party, the Democrats are offering is a strategy of cut and run, and it’s a strategy of not finishing the job that we started.  I think the American people are going to reject that.  So when they get to the polls in November, the president is saying, let’s finish what we started and let’s keep growing this economy by keeping taxes low and their strategy is cut and run in Iraq and raise taxes.  And the American people won’t accept that. 

SCARBOROUGH: Karen Hanretty, Karen Hanretty, it may be just  be a snapshot, but you go to some of these sites like the Grand Canyon and you get those cameras that will get you that panoramic picture that you can see all of the Grand Canyon in one shot.  Well if it’s just a snapshot, it’s a snapshot that goes a long way back.  This president has been declining in the polls for months now.  He’s going in the wrong direction and Americans want troops home now.  What’s the president do?

KAREN HANRETTY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think actually what the president did today was very good.   The first word that came to my mind after watching the press conference was solid.  If the American public isn’t buying what he’s selling, it’s because he hasn’t been selling it.  And I think that if the president goes out there on a regular basis, he’s doing those speeches and that’s well and good, but I disagree with the fact that today’s press conference doesn’t make a difference.  I think it can make a difference over the long haul.  He’s got to continue to go back to the reporters, take on Helen Thomas.  Look, Helen Thomas is the embodiment of Howard Dean, George Soros, Cindy Sheehan, everything that is vitriolic and assertive about.

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah.  Somebody told him -- 

HANRETTY: It was the smart thing to do. 

SCARBOROUGH: Make sure you ask Helen Thomas a question because she’s going to be offensive to a lot of Americans. 

BEINART: Helen Thomas asked a very reasonable question which is—

SCARBOROUGH: She didn’t ask a question.  She debated Peter. 

BEINART: She started out by asking a question.  The question was, why did we go into Iraq? The Bush administration officials themselves, Paul Wolfowitz has said that in fact weapons of mass destruction was not the only or the major reason we went to war in Iraq, and yet that’s all that George W. Bush talked about. 

SCARBOROUGH: It was like a scene out of “Crossfire.”  I mean she just kept asking question after question. 

BEINART: The initial question that Helen Thomas asked is actually a question that an enormous number of Americans have right now. 

SCARBOROUGH: And that’s what press members are supposed to do, ask one question, let the president answer, do a follow-up, not keep interrupting him. 

BEINART: And he never answered that question. He ducked the question. 

HANRETTY: The fact is, it gave the president the opportunity to answer the question that everyone in America wants to know, why are we in this war? You can’t answer that question just once.  You have to answer that question repeatedly.  The president has got to reaffirm his commitment to a pro-democracy, pro-western country in the Middle East.  He’s got to stick to that.  And that is exactly why he should continue taking questions from Helen Thomas. 

SCARBOROUGH: And let me bring in Pat Buchanan here because Pat, you obviously worked in two White Houses.  Were you surprised at the press, especially Helen Thomas kept interrupting the president time and time again?

BUCHANAN: No.  I’ve worked with Helen Thomas in two White Houses, three White Houses.  No I wasn’t but I do agree with you, Joe.  I think that, look, Bush was told, why don’t you throw one to Helen Thomas.  I thought Bush handled it very well.  Said you did an excellent job at the gridiron dinner.  He was buttering her up.  I don’t think this was a particularly hostile press conference.  There is a lot of baiting back and forth.  But I will say this, Peter Beinart’s got a point.  I don’t these polls really make a whole lot of difference, except for Republicans maybe this fall.  But in the long run, Joe, look, if this thing turns out right in Iraq, it ain’t going to make any difference if the president was at 35 or 30 or 40.  If the whole thing goes down, if it goes down, that is the Bush presidency. 

SCARBOROUGH: Bush goes down—were you surprised today that Bush said, I’m staying—the troops are staying there as long as I’m in the White House?

BUCHANAN: This is exactly what the president—he’s made up his minds, Joe.  I don’t care what the polls say, what the press says.  He believes if we stay there and work it out, we can beat these guys, we can win this thing, we can create a democracy.  He believes it. (CROSSTALK)

BEINART: There was something else going on in that answer and this is something that hasn’t gotten nearly enough attention.  The Bush administration from the very beginning has had the idea of permanent U.S.  military bases in Iraq, American troops in Iraq for not years but decades.  Although they have not—

SCARBOROUGH: That’s a bad idea?

BEINART: That’s a very, very bad idea.  The question whether we should stay a couple more years is a reasonable question.  The question on whether we should have permanent—

SCARBOROUGH: We’re still in Germany.  (CROSSTALK)

BEINART: That’s what Bush was getting at - That was behind his answer. 

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH: Why wouldn’t we want American troops in the Middle East?

BEINART: We don’t want American troops in a country where they are going to be continually shot at, where the vast majority of people want them home.  That is not good for American. 

SCARBOROUGH: I am not talking about 140,000 troops, but I sure would like about 10 or 20 thousand over there in case Iran... 

BEINART:  Not if five are dying a week. 

SCARBOROUGH:  That’s not going to be happening long. 

HANRETTY: If the polls show that a war isn’t popular, if something isn’t popular on this reality TV that is Fox News and MSNBC and CNN, then we’ll just bring our troops home and we don’t care what the generals on the ground say.  This is really about this reality TV episode that is playing out for the general public and thank goodness the president is not kowtowing to the people like—I’m sorry me and the rest of the people who are watching this show  tonight who quite frankly don’t -- 

SCARBOROUGH: And Joe Scarborough and this network and other members of the evil empire.  I want to thank our panel, Ralph Reed, Peter Beinart, Pat Buchanan and Karen Hanretty.  And yes, I agree.  I’m glad we got a president that stays the course. 

Now coming up next, radicalism on college campuses are on the rise.  A disturbing report from Harvard University that repeats ugly stereotypes.  Oh yeah, David Duke now agreeing with Harvard—or should I say Harvard finally agreeing with David Duke.  That’s coming up straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back.  Radicalism on our college campuses.  A new report from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government charges that a Jewish conspiracy of sorts has seized control of Washington, DC. It pushed America into the war with Iraq.  The Harvard report states the following, quote, were it not for the Israel lobby’s ability to manipulate the American political system, the relationship between Israel and the United States would be far less intimate than it is today. And that’s not all.  The paper goes on to say that the Israel lobby is made up of an insidious network including the “New York Times” and the “Wall Street Journal,” pro-Israel think tanks like the Brookings Institute, top ranking Bush administration officials, neoconservative gentiles like George Will and even Christian evangelicals Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, all part of the conspiracy.  The Harvard report has ideological allies on other Ivy League campuses and with the PLO and also with our next guest, David Duke, the former controversial Louisiana state representative who is currently a professor at the largest university in the Ukraine.  Thank you for being with us tonight, Mr. Duke. You have been attacked as a former Klansman, an anti-Semite but tonight you’re in league with Harvard University.  Do you feel vindicated?

DAVID DUKE, FMR LOUISIANA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: I feel that the truth takes sometimes a long time to come out.  And for many years davidduke.com, my Web site, has been saying that there were no weapons of mass destruction, that this was not a war for America.  This was a war for Israel.  It was orchestrated primarily by Richard Pearl and Paul Wolfowitz.  That’s admitted by everyone to be the main orchestrators.  They’re long time Zionist ideologues.  Even Richard Pearl wrote a paper for the Israeli government called “A Clean Break, Securing (INAUDIBLE)  in which called for war with Iraq. 

SCARBOROUGH: Now you have been saying this for sometime, Mr. Duke.  Again, are you surprised, Mr. Duke, that Harvard, one of the most liberal universities, certainly the most esteemed universities in America is now agreeing with your position?

DUKE: Well, I see many people converging on this.  I see conservatives like Patrick Buchanan and myself converging on this one issue.  We see—I’m against the Iraq war because I’m a patriotic American.  I don’t like the idea of American soldiers being maimed, killed, blinded, crippled, and disfigured, for a lie.  And this war was for a lie.  It was not about America. 

SCARBOROUGH: You say it’s not about America.  You say it’s about

Israel.  You say it’s -

DUKE: This is the war for Israel. 

SCARBOROUGH: You say this Jewish conspiracy led us into war, and I tell you a lot of people in Washington, DC were saying  that also.  How do you explain—you have  George Bush, a gentile, Dick Cheney a gentile, Condi Rice, a gentile and you got Rumsfeld.  I mean, these were the four people that led us into this war.  Were they just gentile - Jewish cabal?

DUKE: How do you explain this? I think - in fact Ralph Nader said that once. I think they are puppets.  I think that George Bush knows which side of the bread it’s buttered on.  I think he knows what the political power in this country is economically in terms of campaign contributions.  The “Wall Street Journal” itself talked about 50 percent of the contributions for Republicans and even more for Democrats, come from Jewish sources.  We talk about the media, a powerful force.  We have APAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.  Now they have top officials in that organization being charged with espionage against the United States of America.  We have George Bush—wait, we have George Bush going to speak before—

SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second. 

DUKE: Can you imagine a Russian group of—can you imagine a Russian group (CROSSTALK) 

SCARBOROUGH: We have a bad delay here, Mr. Duke and I apologize.  I’m going to have to keep talking because we have a delay.  You talk about the media I’m  sure there are a lot of people who support the media that wish there were a conspiracy a  Zionist conspiracy, because all the press reports about this war from the day it was launched has been overwhelmingly negative, on almost every network and “The New York Times.”

DUKE: That’s not true. Come on.  You know that’s not true.  No, “the New York Times”—

SCARBOROUGH: I know it is true (INAUDIBLE).  For the past three  years. 

DUKE: If I can answer you I will sir, if you will give you an opportunity.  If people can’t listen to what I say here, they can go to my Web site, davidduke.com and hear my positions elucidated in more depth.  But the point is this, “The New York Times,” as you know, in fact supported the war, in fact the apologized for supporting the war.  The major networks, this network, Fox Network, they had all kinds of icons like the war for freedom in Iraq.  It wasn’t a war for freedom.  It’s not a war for democracy.  In fact, right now all the neo-cons are saying they want a civil war, just as Israel wanted civil war in Lebanon when they went to Lebanon. 

SCARBOROUGH: All right.   We’re going to have to leave it there. David Duke, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate it. And I want to bring in right now.

DUKE: I’m pro-American not pro-Israel. 

SCARBOROUGH: All right, thank you.  I want to bring in Alan Dershowitz. He’s author of “Preemption, a Knife that Cuts Both Ways,” a man who was accused of being an apologist for Israel in the Harvard paper.  Professor, we have a long debate on whether to bring David Duke on this show or not.  We decided at the end to bring him on and let him air his views because unfortunately too many Americans have been whispering this for years, in emails and letters to their representatives or members of the media, but today the whispers became a roar with this Harvard report.  What is going on?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR: Well, first of all, it’s not a Harvard report.  It’s a report by one uninformed dean at Harvard who was way out of the loop and his article is full of mistakes.  It’s going to be rebutted and responded to, but I never thought I would live to see the day when a Harvard dean would essentially copy from the David Duke Web site.  And if you look at the report, it’s 80 pages, there is not a paragraph that is original in it.  Every paragraph virtually is copied from a neo-Nazi Web site, from a radical Islamic Web site, from David Duke’s Web site.  You see parallel citations, parallel arguments. They come from Web sites such as nukeisrael.com, which is a neo Nazi Web site.  It’s shocking that a dean at Harvard Kennedy School would publish something with no originality, which just basically parallels and copies the kind of hate speech that one sees on the Internet. 

SCARBOROUGH: But, professor, I understand it’s one dean at Harvard right now and that dean should be fired.  But at the same time, you and I have both seen over the past three years on elite campuses, not only in Europe, but also across America, this growing anti-Semitism.  You’ve seen it on colleges, whether it’s an ivy league or whether it’s at Cal-Berkeley.  What’s going on there and why does it seem that more and more people are comfortable about not whispering about anti-Semitism but actually professors going in the classrooms and filling our students with this type of hate speech?

DERSHOWITZ: Well, I just came back from  a tour of European campuses.  I was at Oxford and  London and Lidon and Brussels.  And there you see kind of overt anti-Israel, anti-Zionists and even sometimes anti-Semitic speech.  In the United States, I think it’s much more much cautious and much more careful.  But this kind of bigotry that appears in this Harvard report was more extreme than anything I saw in Europe.  For example, this professor says that Israeli citizenship is based on blood.  That comes directly from neo-Nazi Web sites.  There is of course no truth to it.

Twenty five percent of Israeli citizens are not even Jewish.  Anybody can become an Israeli citizen if you qualify.  Religion is not a criterion for citizenship.  These ignoramuses who published this piece confuse Israel’s law of return, which is an immigration policy with Israel’s law of citizenship, which is totally not based on religion or race or nationality.  It’s based on obviously the same criteria that America bases its citizenship on.  But there are more non-Jewish citizens in Israel than there are Jewish citizens, for example for example, of the United States.  And Jordan doesn’t have a Jewish citizen by law.  And when he was asked why he didn’t mention Jordan, he said, we’re not talking about Jordan, we’re talking about Israel.  It’s just bigotry at its worse and then he says that nobody wants to debate the issue.  I’ve challenged them to debate this issue at Harvard and they’ve come back with a weasel response, well, under the right circumstances. 

SCARBOROUGH: Well, professor. 

DERSHOWITZ: If we got the right moderator.  Debate me.  Justify your charges.  This is a university.  I predict they will refuse to debate. 

SCARBOROUGH: Professor, we asked them to come on this show.  We asked them to debate you.  We asked them to debate me.  We said we would go on with them one-on-one.  They refused to come on this show. 

DERSHOWITZ: Because they know they’re wrong and they know it’s hate speech.  They know it’s anti-Semitism and they know that this is going to feed hate Web sites across the world.

SCARBOROUGH:  It’s already published and you know what. You love Harvard. But you know the name Harvard is going to be attached to this hate speech for the next 20 to 30 years. 

DERSHOWITZ: I know. 

SCARBOROUGH: We are going to be seeing it in papers forever.  So what does Harvard do tomorrow to rectify this out rage?

DERSHOWITZ:  Well, first of all, no professor should be able to say, I refuse to defend my position. I refuse to debate my position.  These are people who have published hate speech, as I say, essentially lifted it from Web sites.  They’ve been challenged to debate.  They say in their article that pro-Israel advocates refuse to debate.  They call me an apologist for Israel, even though I’m critical of any Israeli policies and I’m not part of any lobby.  Then when I challenge them to a debate they say maybe.  When you challenge them to a debate they say no.  They refuse to justify their position.  I don’t believe in firing professors.  They have academic freedom.  They have the right to be wrong and they are just dead wrong.  There ought to be a kind of Henry Ford professorship or al-Jazeera professorship and these folks ought to fill that professorship.  But nobody should believe what they’re saying because they’re demonstrably wrong and false and they won’t defend their position and that’s the worst academic. 

SCARBOROUGH: Because it’s indefensible.  Professor, it’s indefensible.  You and I know it and they know it.  Thank you for being with us. We really appreciate it, thank you. And coming up next, “American Idol,” the great American talent search, not quite.  We’ll tell you why when we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  A cartoon declares war on Tom Cruise saying that Cruise and Scientology censored their “South Park” program.  But now they fight back.  And the scandal is getting uglier.  That and “Idol’s” latest scandal straight ahead but first, here’s the latest news you and your family need to know.

(NEWSBREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Tom Cruise reportedly took on “South Park” over Scientology, but now the show is firing back.  We’ve got the inside details on how this cartoon is taking on one of America’s most secret religions.

Plus, what happens when a cat falls 80 feet from a tree?  Good question.  And we’ll show you.

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Those stories just minutes away.  But first—by the way, I’m not laughing about the cat falling.  I’m really not.  I love cats.  I love animals.  You know all of that stuff.  So please don’t send me emails.  I was laughing at a joke in the studio here.  Would never laugh at a falling cat.

Anyway, is “American Idol” misleading viewers?  A new report claims that four in the top 11 contestants competing on tonight’s show, they’re not amateurs but in fact are professional entertainers.

Mandisa performed with the likes of Shania Twain, Faith Hill and Charlie Daniels.  Paris Bennett open up for hip hop stars Bow-Wow and her grandmother is an acclaimed gospel singer.  Ace Young.  This guy - they showed him hammering on the roof as this rags to riches story.  He actually was a guest star on the UPN sitcom “Half and Half” and Lisa Tucker starred in the production of “The Lion King” several years back.

Is “American Idol” betraying its viewers?  Let’s bring in Katrina Szish.  She’s from “Us Weekly” and we also have from Los Angeles, journalist Pat Lalama.  Pat, let me start with you.

And I love this scene.  They get this Ace guy up on the roof when they’re talking about where he came from.  And he’s hammering those nails in.  And oh my God.  Here is a story much this carpenter plucked from a roof.  And put on “American Idol” where all of his dreams can come true.  It’s all a fraud.  All a fraud.

PAT LALAMA, JOURNALIST:  Joe, let me tell you something.  It had to happen.  This whole business of the American dream started out pretty authentic.  I think I remember season one sitting with the kids and the hubby and the dogs and the cats and saying, hey, this is cool because we are all music lovers.  And this proves you can do it.  You can achieve the American dream.  You know what?  It’s all commercialized now.  It’s all about money now.

Let me add a few other elements.  Most - excuse me, let me rephrase, a lot of these people have criminal records.  It’s a setup.  The judges do that sham thing of pretending like they are getting in a fight.  Paula is having an affair with one of the contestants.  It had to happen.  It had to finally become about the bottom line.

Remember, Simon gets part of the deal when they win.  They get the contract.  It’s not really the American dream.  And let me tell you, as a music lover—and I am a blues singer on the side, OK, I’m a purist, it’s all pop junk.  It’s all they—it’s one person acting just like the other.

SCARBOROUGH:  And the worst thing is, Pat, it appears now to be all staged.  Katrina, I know you were moved by that scene of Ace hammering on the roof.  Now we find out that Ace was on a TV show and all these other people were stars in their own right.  Isn’t “American Idol” misleading Americans in believing this is a great talent search?

KATRINA SZISH, “US WEEKLY”:  Well, Joe, I can’t say I was moved with that scene of Ace hammering on the roof.  But what I think is interesting .

SCARBOROUGH:  Wait, wait, hold on.  That’s the all-American story.  It really is.  I was a carpenter one day, down on my luck.  I was hammering nails on the roof and the next day I’m a star.  But this guy had already been a star.

SZISH:  At this point, that whole thing is a little bit cheesy, I think.  You know, Fantasia Barrino was the real deal.  Ace is a good-looking guy so he can hammer a few nails.  I don’t know.  But is “American Idol” misleading the public?  Yes, I think so when they show an image like that.  Is it something that they shouldn’t be doing?  Yes.  But is it a problem that some of these people aren’t amateurs?  No.  Because the only thing that it says in the “American Idol” contract is that these people can’t have a record deal.  So they’re not breaking their own rules, but they are misleading the public.

And I think that’s the problem.  The interesting thing is though, Lisa Tucker as well as Ace were both in the bottom three last night.  So it goes to show even if you are a professional it doesn’t mean that you’re going to win.

SCARBOROUGH:  But aren’t there ramifications for “American Idol” being caught lying to the public, lying to their viewers or at least misleading them?

SZISH:  Yes, the lying and the misleading, that is a problem.  They should come out and say, hey, listen, Ace has done this, Lisa has done this.  They shouldn’t try to make us believe that these people come from a background different from where they’ve really come from.  And that is the problem.

SCARBOROUGH:  Carmen, let me bring you in here.  Carmen Rasmussen, you just came—you were in the “American Idol” audition.  You’ve come over here.

CARMEN RASMUSSEN, FORMER “IDOL” CONTESTANT:  Yes.  I was.  Yes.

SCARBOROUGH:  Are you going to confess to us tonight that you were actually juggling in a vaudeville act from the time you were three years old?  Did you star on any TV shows before “American Idol”?  Are you concerned by the fact that they sell this Ace character off as some carpenter when he’s had a TV show and several of these other people as amateurs when they’ve actually been in show business for a long time?

RASMUSSEN:  You know what, everyone on “American Idol” has been performing since the age of what, three or five.  And it would shock me if none of these people had had professional experience before, whether that’s singing on stage or in a play.  It doesn’t really matter.  The fact is that they’re on “American Idol,” they’re doing their best and the fact that they’ve had that experience is just helping them to be better.  I don’t think that .

SCARBOROUGH:  Why do they have to lie?  Why do they have to make up these stories that they know they’re false?

RASMUSSEN:  I don’t think that “American Idol” has lied.  These people have not had recording contracts and that’s all that “American Idol” requires.  They say you cannot have a recording contract.  It doesn’t say you can’t have ever been on a play or on a TV show.  It says you can’t have a recording contract and these people didn’t so I think they’re fine.

SCARBOROUGH:  Pat Lalama, do you buy that?

LALAMA:  Well, you know what, I don’t buy any of it anymore.  It’s just all too commercial for me.  What I did, I took my kids down to the Sunset Strip the other day and stood them in front of the Whiskey-a-Go-Go and then told them the story of the Doors - Guns and Roses, all of them sleeping them six to an apartment in Hollywood, living off a jar of peanut butter and struggling that way.

I’ll say it again, in the beginning I liked the concept but it’s all so pop, it’s all so sanitized.  It’s all so commercial.  And they seem like clones and everybody, you know, is making money off of it and I just don’t like any of it anymore.  I don’t like any of it.

SCARBOROUGH:  Katrina, the $64,000 question got into this problem back in the 1950s.  There is a movie about it called “Quiz Show.”  And actually there’s some of the video.  I don’t know if you saw it.  But it’s a great movie.  But in this story we found out that they were actually helping the contestants out to juice the ratings.  That certainly appears to be what’s happening here, they’re helping themselves out letting pros get into the finals and, again, this great American search for the next big star, don’t you think that this—if this scandal grows it actually could hurt their viewership in coming seasons?

SZISH:  I think if it’s positioned as a scandal it could hurt the viewership.  But I think Carmen had a good point, this show is really about people who are looking for talent.  It doesn’t have to be the rawest of the raw talent.  All of these people have been performing in one way or another, whether it was in front of a mirror or on a stage since they were young.  And “American Idol” is about finding the next pop star.

And if some people have an edge, if some people have performed in the past, that’s OK.  They still aren’t superstars yet.  And this allows them that chance to be superstars.

LALAMA:  Don’t you think .

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  We are going to have to leave it there.  Unfortunately, Katrina, thank you, Carmen and Pat Lalama, appreciate you being here.

RASMUSSEN:  Thank you.

LALAMA:  Thank you.

SCARBOROUGH:  Right now breaking news.  I just found out that the host of our next show, Tucker Carlson, well, THE SITUATION wasn’t the first show that he ever hosted.  I think he worked at a competing network.

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST:  Yes, I did.

SCARBOROUGH:  I’ve got it here.

CARLSON:  Don’t even say it, Joe, because the words ..

SCARBOROUGH:  “Crossfire”!  “Crossfire”!

CARLSON:  . burn my ears.  I’m redeeming myself now, though.

SCARBOROUGH:  Tucker.  Et tu, Tucker?

CARLSON:  Yes.  Et moi, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  What’s THE SITUATION tonight, buddy?

CARLSON:  THE SITUATION is, should kindergartners be taught about AIDS in school by the state.  It is happening as of yesterday in New York City.  It seems a little over the top to me.  We’ll talk to the person who is advocating for it.

Plus, in addition to all their other problems, the baby boomers are now getting addicted to crystal meth in increasing numbers.  Hard to believe and yet it’s true.  We’ll tell you all about it in a special SITUATION investigation.

SCABOROUGH:  All right.  Thanks so much, Tucker.

CARLSON:  Thanks, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  We appreciate it and make sure you tune in to THE SITUATION next at 11:00.  What my wife does is she TiVos THE SITUATION.  She watches it at 10:00 when my show is on.  And then she watches Tucker again live at 11:00.  I ask that you not do it.  Watch my show—I’m joking, dear.  Honey, I’m joking.

My wife is a huge SITUATION fan.  I know you are too.  Make sure you watch it.  Make sure you stay with us because coming up here, Tom Cruise and Scientology, the so-called religion that everyone is afraid of except for the cartoon “South Park.”  And they’re at it again.  The war is continuing.  We have a big scoop on the inside—on the coming up episode planned for tomorrow night.

Plus, why is everybody so scared of Scientology?  We are going to be talking to one reporter who heard directly from Tom Cruise after one of her reports.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I hate to tell you this, Stan, but you are one messed up kid.

STAN, CARTOON CHARACTER:  I am?  I didn’t know that.

UNIDENTIFIED:  Well, there is certainly no question that you are a perfect candidate for Scientology.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  The creators of “South Park” strike back.  They are editing tomorrow night’s season premiere as we speak.  Their target, once again, Scientology.  It’s a fight that scientologists didn’t want but Comedy Central won’t back down.  After Tom Cruise allegedly attacked them and censored their program.

With me now to talk about it, we have got Janet Reitman, she is from “Rolling Stone” magazine and we also E! Entertainment’s Giuliana Depandi.

Janet let me begin with you, a cartoon goes after Scientology.  Scientology goes after the cartoon using pretty heavy tactics.  You’ve had experiences with this after you tried to write an article on Scientology, didn’t you?

JANET REITMAN, “ROLLING STONE”:  Well, I did write an article on Scientology.  It took about nine months and it was in our magazine just a couple weeks ago.  But yes, I did.  We approached Scientology in June of last year asking them if they would cooperate with an article on the church.  And they said no.  And I then went to start my research without their assistance and very quickly afterwards received - the magazine itself received a phone call from Tom Cruise and then about two weeks later received a visit from Cruise’s sister, who was also his publicist at the time.  And she’s a very high ranking Scientologist.

And she came accompanied by one of the top church officials who sat down with my editors and talked about every angle of my story for two hours and particularly asked questions about me and what my business was and what my background was and a lot of other things.

I wasn’t in this meeting.  But from what I gather they—they raised a lot of protest to our doing this piece.  And they continued to keep tabs on us for the next six months of the reporting and writing of the story.  And were really like in touch with my editors up until the very last hour before the story shipped.  So it was a long process.

SCARBOROUGH:  Janet, why do you think they were so concerned about your article?  Why do you think they’re so nervous about a cartoon—a cartoon poking fun at them that actually goes after every religion?

REITMAN:  Yeah.  That’s a—they have a really big problem when it comes to critics, and particularly journalists, but also, you know, anyone who they don’t perceive as being onboard or in line with Scientology and Scientology’s teaching.  And it’s a long-standing practice and belief system of the church that journalists and other kinds of outside critics are basically suppressive people to be squelched and to be silenced because they feel that our role is to kind of harm them and their enlightenment and their progress and paths towards enlightenment.

So they’re very aggressive on that tack when it comes to anybody who criticizes them, whether they are in entertainment or whether they are in the media.

SCARBOROUGH:  Very aggressive indeed.  You know Comedy Central is not talking about too many details about tomorrow night’s episode entitled “The Return of Chef.”

But they did issue this statement on the plot.

“The town is jolted out of a case of the doldrums when Chef suddenly reappears.  While Stan, Kyle, Kenny and Cartman are thrilled to have their old friend back, they notice that something about Chef seems different.  When Chef’s strange behavior starts getting him in trouble, the boys pull out all the stops to save him.”

Giuliana, it sounds like Tom Cruise and Scientology may have picked on the wrong cartoon.  They’re in for a long, wild ride, aren’t they?

GIULIANA DEPANDI, E! ENTERTAINMENT:  These guys aren’t scared of anything, the creators of “South Park.” and tomorrow night is the debut of the 10th season of “South Park.” it’s a hugely successful show, and everyone is dying to see this particular episode, because, as you mentioned, they released a synopsis called “The Return of Chef.”  And people are saying, are these new tracks of Isaac Hayes’ voice who plays chef or is there some creative editing taking place here where they’ve basically taken clips of the past 10 years of Isaac Hayes playing Chef and cut them all together and just made a hugely, probably very offensive episode?

So they are—the buzz around Hollywood is that he is going to be a huge target tomorrow night on this episode.  And these—a lot of people are saying .

SCARBOROUGH:  And Giuliana, explain, if you will, they go after everybody.  One of their most brutal attacks was on Mel Gibson after the “Passion” came out last year, right?

DEPANDI:  They go after everybody.  No one is safe when it comes to these guys.  But, you know, Scientology is a pretty different story.  And I think that the reason a lot of people kind of target Scientology and—is because it’s a very difficult religion to define.  A lot of people don’t even know what the heck Scientology is.

I remember going to their Web site and even after reading their teachings, a couple of paragraphs, I was confused.  It’s a very confusing religion.  And a lot of people don’t know about it and it scares a lot of people.

SCARBOROUGH:  No doubt about it.  Hey, thanks so much, Janet.  Thank you Giuliana.  Appreciate you being with us tonight.  Coming up next, flying cats.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Wake up grandma!  It’s time for another flyover of

SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.

First stop tonight, America.  If you're not careful you may find your personal financial information turning up on Web sites and databases everywhere.  Why?  Because the IRS is considering changing privacy rules that would allow your tax accountant to sell your personal information and your individual returns.  Now as it stands right now, your returns could be sold only if you say that’s OK and only to companies that are affiliated with the firm that handles your taxes.  The new provisions would allow them to sell it to anybody.  Hey.  Way to sticking to Americans who pay their taxes and expect the IRS to do the right thing.  Fat chance.

And next stop, Yellowstone National Park where grizzly bears are set to finally crawl off the endangered species list.  Except 250 scientists and researches, including Jane Goodall protesting the move, worrying that if grizzlies are not fully covered - they worry if the federal protection for the bears is lifted, they will likely go extinct.  The measure is going to take effect late this year and would apply to grizzlies in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana and just in time for hunting season.

Speaking of hunters, we’re going to be right back with THE SITUATION with Tucker Carlson.  Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Finally tonight, the cat that fell 80 feet out of a tree.  This South Carolina cat decided to test the odds.  Piper (ph) the cat sent her owners into a week of panic after hiding out in the tree for eight days.  The cat thwarted would be rescuers for days.  Finally, fell out of the tree and poor Piper flew an incredible 80 feet but landed on her feet and ran away.

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

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

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