updated 3/31/2006 10:33:40 AM ET 2006-03-31T15:33:40

Guests: Jason Giambi, Phil Rogers, Joe Torre, Alex Pareene

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST, “COUNTDOWN”:  Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Rage about ‘roids.  Baseball will finally investigate steroid use by its slugging superstars in the wake of two books accusing Barry Bonds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think there’s no question in my mind that the specisivity (ph) of these charges said to me that’s it’s time to have an investigation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The who, we know, former Senate majority leader George Mitchell will lead the probe.  But what exactly is he looking for?  And is baseball looking out for its integrity, or just looking out for its corporate sponsors, bailing out of the Barry Bonds celebration tour?

And is there already spin?  Two exclusive interviews tonight with the only man who reportedly confessed to the grand jury that he used the drugs, Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASON GIAMBI, NEW YORK YANKEES:  If, you know, people really want to get into, I guess, the investigation, they got to start at how was the grand jury leaked.

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OLBERMANN:  Also Yankees manager Joe Torre.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE TORRE, MANAGER, NEW YORK YANKEES:  Oh, I think if you’re going to find the root of this thing, you’re going to have to, you know, question everybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Relief, now.  Questions, later.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JILL CARROLL, “CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR”:  I was kidnapped January 7. 

I don’t know why.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Almost three months later, reporter Jill Carroll is a hostage no more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDALL MCCLOY, SAGO MINE SURVIVOR:  Some things happened that I’d rather I didn’t see.  But I did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Gaunt, weakened, but alive and getting stronger, the lone survivor of the Sago West Virginia mine disaster, Randall McCloy, speaks.

And say it ain’t so, Silvio.  It’s not the Italian prime minister in this Internet video?  Just as we warned you last Tuesday...

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OLBERMANN:  Leave us all hope that was just a guy who really looks exactly like the prime minister of Italy...

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OLBERMANN:  ... last Wednesday...

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OLBERMANN:  Again, we cannot independently verify that that was actually Silvio Berlusconi.

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OLBERMANN:  ... last Friday...

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OLBERMANN:  We’re not able to confirm with 100 percent certainty...

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OLBERMANN:  ... and, well, yesterday.

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OLBERMANN:  Hello!

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OLBERMANN:  Tonight, the truth behind the tape.  Our excuse to play it continuously for about five minutes.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening from Tampa, Florida.

In September 1993, the search committee looking for the next commissioner of baseball reportedly produced a short list, including two names, Senator George Mitchell of Maine, and a former defense secretary from the Ford administration, fellow named Don Rumsfeld.  Had Mr. Rumsfeld gotten the job, the U.S. military might not be in the predicament it’s created for itself in Iraq.  Had Senator Mitchell gotten the job, baseball’s steroids mess might never have progressed to where it is now.

In our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, at least in baseball’s case, there appears to be a second chance.  While the former Senate majority leader is not the new commissioner, he was, as reported last night, today appointed to head up baseball’s own investigation of steroid use reported among its players, limited, said Commissioner Bud Selig, in announcing it this afternoon, confined to events only since September 2002, when baseball specifically banned performance-enhancing drugs, sort of.

As for the timing of the investigation launched in the wake of Selig reading last weekend the book about Bonds and drugs, “Game of Shadows,” but not, Selig claims, launched now because Bonds is approaching Babe Ruth’s career home run total and Hank Aaron’s career homerun record.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

BUD SELIG, BASEBALL COMMISSIONER:  I have to tell you, that played no role in this at all.  That played absolutely no role in this at all.

Yes, I think this was much more specific.  I have to say that.  I think there’s no question in my mind the specisivity (ph) of these charges said to me that it’s time to have an investigation.

The idea that we turned a blind eye is just not supported by facts. 

Those who cover the sport regularly understand that.

This information will be public.  And it will—you will get it, you will get the information.  This is an investigation in every sense of the word.

FORMER SEN. GEORGE MITCHELL, LEADING STEROIDS PROBE:  I’ve been assured by the commissioner that I will have complete independence and discretion as to the manner in which this investigation will be conducted, and that I will have unhindered authority to follow the evidence wherever it might lead.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

OLBERMANN:  It might lead nowhere.  Barry Bonds reports “The New York Daily News” will not cooperate with the Mitchell investigation.  No answer on that question yet from the other players prominently mentioned in that book and in the grand jury testimony, specifically Garry Sheffield (ph) and Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees, though Giambi joins me for an exclusive interview in a moment.

There was less reaction today, as much as there was confusion.  Who will be investigated?  Who will testify?  What happens to anyone nabbed in the investigation?  That latter question coming up in my conversation today with New York Yankees manager Joe Torre on the team’s last day of spring training here in Tampa.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TORRE:  When did baseball implement a steroids policy?  When did that happen?

OLBERMANN:  For—with punishment?  Two thousand and four.

TORRE:  Two thousand and four.  So anything that happened before that, if they find out that there were players that were taking steroids before that, they didn’t break any rules.

You know, so how do you approach that?  That’s a curiosity for me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  One answer to that, then baseball commissioner Faye Vincent issued a strongly worded warning to players in 1991 that the use of illegal or illegally obtained drugs, recreational or otherwise, would not be tolerated.

The full interview with Joe Torre in a moment.

It will be his job, of course, to manage those two most prominent steroid suspects outside of Barry Bonds, of course, including the only one who reportedly admitted to the grand jury, in exchange for immunity, that he had used steroids, the only player to even approach an on-the-record confession, Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees.

We begin my exclusive interview with him with the simple question of reaction to the announcement of baseball’s probe.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIAMBI:  To be honest with you, this is the first I’ve heard of it.  You know, I’ve just been packing my house, getting ready to get out of Tampa.  So, you know, I’m not really worried about it.  I’d get all the things I need to do in the past, and I’ve gone forward.  And, you know, the best I can do is just get ready for the season and not worry about it.

OLBERMANN:  When something like this is announced, you think about it, whether it’s in politics or baseball or wherever else, and you think, What are they looking to find out?  What are the answers they’re trying to see?  How far-ranging is it going it be?  If you were deciding what would go into an investigation that would be fair and actually produce results that would be positive for the game and the players, what would you do?

GIAMBI:  I mean, I guess that’s probably the best question.  Like I said, this is all news to me.  So I don’t know where they’re going to start, or what they’re even going to look at, to be honest with you.

The best thing is, you know, I handled the situation the way I needed to, and, you know, got myself ready for last year’s season, and I’ve kind of done the same this year.  You know, I’ve moved on and moved past and moved forward.

So, you know, until somebody gives me a call, I really don’t know what’s going on, or even what they’re going to get a look at.

OLBERMANN:  You apologized very publicly and movingly, I might add, last year, obviously staying away from certain words that would have changed the nature of the conversation a little bit.  Since you’re the only guy who’s done anything like that, said anything like that, do you worry that you might be—you might have put yourself unknowingly in a kind of dangerous position, because you said you were sorry for something, while everybody else said, No comment?

GIAMBI:  You know, I haven’t really thought of it that way.  I just needed to do what was best for Jason.  And that’s the way I looked at it in my context, and not really worried about anybody else.  Like I said, I mean, all those guys are great guys.  And I had to do what I had to do to go forward, to get myself ready for a baseball season.

And that’s what I kind of looked into, and said, you know, this is what I need to do that’s going to be best for me.  And I look at it now, I have no regrets.  I’ve done it the right way that I needed to go, and, like I said, just trying to concentrating on baseball now.

OLBERMANN:  How do you do that?  You’ve been through this now before, where another subject besides baseball has been something people have been asking you questions about on a daily basis.  As you look ahead to this season, obviously they’re going to have an investigation.  What little we know of it says players who might be investigated will continue to play, which presumably means that all this will go on while you’re trying to play baseball, and people will be asking you questions, and things may leak out.

What do you do personally to make—you know, to build that wall between all that and everything between the lines?

GIAMBI:  Well, I guess the biggest thing is, I really don’t have, you know, much more about myself that could really get much more out there, to be honest with you.  I mean, if, you know, people really want to get into, I guess, the investigation, they got to start at, how was the grand jury leaked, you know, from there?

So, I mean, that would probably be a start for, you know, them to go in the broader spectrum of things.  But like I said, there’s really not much anywhere anybody can go with me, because, like I said, I just—I did what I had to do.  I concentrated on baseball, and I played out the season, and, you know, just have gone forward.

OLBERMANN:  Thanks, Jason.

GIAMBI:  Thank you.  I appreciate it.  Always a pleasure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Jason Giambi’s manager, Joe Torre, joins me in a moment.

Phil Rogers, national baseball writer of “The Chicago Tribune,” was the first to report that Commissioner Selig of baseball wanted to act on the Bonds steroids quagmire sooner rather than later.

He joins me now.

Phil, good evening.

PHIL ROGERS, “CHICAGO TRIBUNE”:  How are you doing, Keith?

OLBERMANN:  A little suntanned, and talked to a lot of players worried about steroids today.

Let me start with something that one of them, Jason Giambi, said, and Joe Torre also echoed this.  In essence, I hope they’ll also be investigating how those grand jury transcripts got into reporters’ hands.  That was the gist also of the lawsuit that Barry Bonds filed about that book last week.  Is this the first spin, is this the first talking point?  Are the principals in this going to be defending themselves by blaming the media?

ROGERS:  Well, they won’t get very much traction out of that.  I mean, it might be where they start.  But that’s another investigation, that’s another issue.  I don’t blame those players for being upset about that testimony being out there.  Not my understanding of what happens with sworn grand jury testimony, but also not the issue we’re looking at here.

OLBERMANN:  To the senator’s investigation, to the (INAUDIBLE) Mr.  Mitchell’s investigation.  A lot of talk at that news conference about the why, a lot about the why now, but very little flesh on the bones about what they’ll actually be investigating.  Any idea yet on the parameters, the targets, the witnesses, the penalties?

ROGERS:  Well, I think the targets are very simple.  I mean, I think this is a Barry Bonds investigation.  You know, his name was never mentioned today during the 23-minute news conference, but, I mean, this is a Barry Bonds issue.  This is the most high-profile player in the game in terms of what he’s accomplishing, flaunting the rules of how you’re supposed to prepare yourself.  And I think the commissioner was backed against the wall and said, Enough’s enough.

You know, it is interesting, Mitchell talked about when you start an investigation, you seldom know where it’s going to lead.  Certainly it could be a lot broader.  But I think the principals, as Selig said, he talked about the Balco investigation and about Greg Anderson.  Well, that’s Barry Bonds, that’s Garry Sheffield, that’s Jason Giambi.  It could go beyond that, but I think, you know, that’s the epicenter.

OLBERMANN:  On the radio today, my partner, Mr. Patrick, suggested that Commissioner Selig had come around to the idea of a steroids investigation now because he sees it as part, possibly, of his legacy.  I’ll be the guy who cleans up steroids.  I said I thought it was less that than it was these reports that the advertisers who were going to sponsor the celebrations when Bonds hit number 715, and if he get homer number 756, seemed to be bailing out.  They don’t want anything to do with Bonds.  Were either of us right?

ROGERS:  Well, baseball loves its sponsors.  In Chicago, we just got the bleachers at Wrigley named the Bud Light Bleachers today, so no question, baseball loves its sponsors.  But Barry Bonds was a hard sell in 2001, and he was going to be a hard sell this time around, period.  As Rick Reilly (ph) of “Sports Illustrated” said, you know, this guy’s not beloved, he’s not even beliked.  So, you know, I don’t think it’s really about the money.  I think they’re trying to do the right thing here.

OLBERMANN:  There is, within, certainly, the baseball realm, and it’s not clear how much there is outside of baseball, a lot of conversation tonight about the potential conflicts of interest here, because Senator Mitchell is on the board of the Boston Red Sox, so he’s not outside of baseball, he’s, in fact, associated with one team.  He’s chairman of Disney.  Disney owns ESPN.  ESPN is now going to run a Bonds reality show, or, you know, a Bonds alternate reality show.

Are these conflicts of interest legitimate things to worry about?  Do they set the investigation off on a bad foot?

ROGERS:  Well, they’re conflicts of interest, and they’re certainly something that people looking to criticize can grab hold of.  But, you know, look at George Mitchell’s track record.  I think you can put a lot of stock in that.

And I can also tell you, baseball’s not looking to protect Barry Bonds.  If anybody thinks this is an internal investigation looking to protect somebody, I don’t think so.  And a lot of people aim it at Selig.  You know, I don’t think you’re going to find an investigation that’s going to come at the commissioner this time around.

OLBERMANN:  All right.  Tease it out for me.  When  this is finished, what will the Mitchell commission, the Mitchell report on steroids look like?  When will we receive it?  And who’s going to get it in the neck as a result of it?

ROGERS:  Well, Keith, how fast is Barry Bonds going to hit those 47 home runs to catch Henry Aaron?  I don’t think the investigation is going to be released after that happens.  But I don’t think—I think we’re looking at a thorough investigation that I think will probably lead to a report next off-season, I would say maybe December, January, would be my guess at that.

And I think in the end, there’s going to be some discipline, and I think Barry Bonds, unless there’s some startling things we don’t know that contradicts this mountain of evidence against him, I think is going to be disciplined.  And I think Jason Giambi and Garry Sheffield may have to feel the brunt of that as well.  I’m not sure if it’s going to go beyond those three guys, but I think they’re all in bad situations now.

OLBERMANN:  An investigation, a season, and potentially a home run record chase, all at the same time.

Phil Rogers, national baseball columnist for “The Chicago Tribune,” great thanks, sir.

ROGERS:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  We’ve heard the Jason Giambi response to the Mitchell Commission announcement.  Also tonight, a somewhat bigger context, my exclusive interview with Yankees manager Joe Torre.

And unabashedly good news out of Iraq today.  After three months as a hostage there, the journalist Jill Carroll is free tonight, and she tells the harrowing story of her time in captivity.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Before it was two hours old, baseball’s new Mitchell committee investigating steroid use in the game had already produced, if not intelligence or results, then at least two remarkable ironies.  Today, the founder of the California lab that supposedly supplied the drug to superstars like Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Garry Sheffield, was himself released after his short term in prison.  And Victor Conti says this is all character assassination directed at Bonds and at himself.

And in our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, Joe Torre, the manager of the team for which Giambi and Sheffield play, bought his first automobile in 1960 from a used car dealer in Milwaukee named Allen Bud Selig, the very same Bud Selig who today, as commissioner of baseball, started the investigation that will doubtless touch two of Joe Torre’s stars.

My exclusive interview with the manager of the New York Yankees.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  We don’t have the details yet of what a baseball steroids investigation is going to look like, but there’s going to be one, and there’s going to be a chairman, who is presumably the former Senate majority leader, George Mitchell, and there are going to be lawyers and investigators.  Do you have a reaction to it?  Do you have an initial impression about it?

TORRE:  Well, the only impression I can give you, Keith, is the fact that I know Bud Selig is certainly aware of the reputation of the game.

And, you know, our game depends on the trust from the people.  And, you know, I’m—you know, at first blush, it just looks like he’s trying to turn up all—turn over all the stones just to make sure that what major league baseball is doing in regards to steroids is being taken care of.

So I, you know, I, you know, certainly have to respect the commissioner’s wishes there.

OLBERMANN:  Do you worry, on a direct level here, that it’s—you know, you’ve got obviously Bonds’s name is foremost of them here.  But the other names that would be in this group would be two guys on your own team who were in that book, and obviously judging by the media reaction that’s been present already today, people are going to be asking Garry Sheffield and Jason Giambi all these questions all over again.  Does that concern you for your ball club and for the season?

TORRE:  Immediate reaction in New York?  You sure of that?

You know, I can’t say you’re used to it.  You’re never used to this type of questioning.  But these two guys have been through the mill and back, as far as having to deal with whatever they had to deal with, and they’re pretty good at, you know, addressing it, answering what questions they feel appropriate, and then moving on about their business.

They understand that, you know, the other 23 guys in this ball club rely on them a great deal.  So, sure, it’s not going to be easy.  But again, when you play in New York, there’s always something that’s going to have to be taken care of.  And, you know, I’m confident that these two guys will handle it.

OLBERMANN:  Of all the players who have been mentioned in connection with this, whether it was the grand jury story and Balco, or the first book, or the second book, or Canseco’s book last year, all the people who’ve been involved, the only person who came across as a standup guy and said something to the media about what was reported about him, and he was obviously very careful in the phrasing of what he said, was Jason Giambi, when he apologized last year.  And obviously that bought him a lot of goodwill and a lot of, this is a man who means well, at whatever happened in the past, whatever happened in the future.

In a way, though, because he’s the only guy who’s even that much on the record, could that be used against him?  Could he have been put himself in an unfortunate position by coming the closest to telling the truth?

TORRE:  Well, I hope the heck it’s not the case, because if that’s the case, you’re going to discourage guys from being open about it, from answering questions.  I think, you know, Garry Sheffield’s been open.  Again, he doesn’t necessarily come across a lot of times the way, you know, maybe he wants to be, you know, the way he’d like to be, like to come across.  You know, he’s pretty open, as far as I’m concerned.  You know, when you ask him a question, he gives you an answer.

You know, I have a concern also, Keith.  You know, who—is there anybody that takes the blame for this supposed grand jury testimony that becomes public?  I mean, there’s no talk about, you know—whether all these allegations are true or false, I’m not here to judge that.

But I’m just curious that when someone sits down, evidently, in a grand jury investigation, and they’re told that this is confidential, and all of a sudden they read about it or read about it in a book or in a newspaper, is there anybody taking responsibility for that?

OLBERMANN:  See, now, here’s where our two worlds collide.  Eight years ago, when President Clinton was deposed on tape for a grand jury, they managed to release that, and not only that, but they broadcast it on national television, and not only that, it was broadcast without anybody editing.  So the whole grand jury process was diluted a little bit then.  And, you know, you could never foresee this as part of the consequences of it, but I guess that—I guess they’re connected that (INAUDIBLE).

TORRE:  Yes, everything is done now on precedent.  You know, and whenever something is done one time, they figure it’s OK to do it.  And it’s deception, as far as I’m concerned.  If the people who are testifying are told that this is confidential, because obviously that’s not the case.

OLBERMANN:  Last question.  Canseco said this.  It has been alluded to by a lot of people who have observed the situation relative to Barry Bonds.  If there’s an investigation and it’s just about the players, and it’s not about what did managers know, what did general managers know, what did owners know, are they—were they—were there errors of omission, were there errors of commission? It will not be fair if it’s just about the players.  Do you think that’s correct?

TORRE:  Probably not.  I think if you’re going to find the root of this thing, you’re going to have to, you know, question everybody.  But again, you know, what do you do?  I mean, when did baseball—here, I’m not supposed to be asking you questions...

OLBERMANN:  No, go ahead.

TORRE:  But it’s OK, we’re friends, right?  When did baseball implement a steroids policy?  When did that happen?

OLBERMANN:  For—with punishment?  Two thousand and four.

TORRE:  Two thousand and four.  So anything that happened before that, if they find out that there were players that were taking steroids before that, they didn’t break any rules.  You know, so how do you approach that?  That’s a curiosity for me.

OLBERMANN:  I think it’ll be a curiosity for all of us for the rest of this year, probably, the way investigations go.

TORRE:  Again, I’m not defending.

OLBERMANN:  (INAUDIBLE)...

TORRE:  I mean, I certainly, first off, steroids to me, the first and foremost thing that comes to my mind, it’s dangerous, and we’re teaching the kids the wrong lesson, because eventually, just from the little I know about steroids, it’s going to have a, you know, maybe a fatal effect on people.

OLBERMANN:  Yes.

TORRE:  And if not that, something long term that they have to deal with the rest of their lives.  So, you know, whatever the short-term pluses are, there’s certainly too much on the negative side to really think about using it.

OLBERMANN:  Thank you, Joe.

TORRE:  Thank you, Keith.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  If you think steroids are fun, wait till we get to motions to censure the president, a reminder that after he testifies to the Senate about that tomorrow, Richard Nixon’s White House counsel, John Dean, will join us for the regular Friday editions of COUNTDOWN, 8:00 p.m. and midnight Eastern, 5:00 and 9:00 p.m. Pacific.

Tonight, three months after he alone was left to tell the tale, Randall McCloy bears witness to the mining disaster in Sago, West Virginia.

And from that triumph to fury, a wall of fury, anger management and dishwashing, Filipino style.

That’s next.  This is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Sixty-one years ago today in England, a boy was born in Surrey who could have adopted the last name of his step-grandfather, who raised him, rather than that of his mother.  He didn’t, otherwise he would have been called Eric Patrick Clapp, rather than Eric Clapton.  Good choice.

On that note, let’s play Oddball.

We begin on the island of Cyprus, where if you’re ever visiting, be sure to try the lemons.  They are as big as Eric Clapton’s freaking head.  Orchard owners there say they are not sure why their lemons are so huge this year, some of them weighing up to eight pounds, but they say it’s nothing to do with that leaky nuclear plant next door Smithers. The lemons reportedly taste great.  They are perfect for lemon candy, family sized lemonade, for standing on while trying to break the world knee bend record.  Actually that’s just a really big ball.  It just happens to be yellow.  And that’s world record holder Ashrida Firman (ph) on top of it, bending at the knee 1035 times in one hour in Athens.  Firman sweated profusely and cried out in pain as he smashed the previous record of 400 and entered the Guinness book of world records for the 34th time. He’ll go for number 35 later tonight when he attempts to eat that really big ball.

And then to the Philippines where one restaurant in Corona (ph) has figured out  a way to save money on dishwashers while offering their customers a special brand of anger management therapy.  The wall of fury, a chance for diners to vent their frustrations by smashing their dishes and other items against said wall of fury for a nominal charge.  There are targets painted on the wall of fury for those looking to make things more interesting. Many married couples enjoy smashing plates instead of say, each other.  Restaurant owners say the wall of fury has become extremely popular and serves as a great distraction from their horrible, horrible menu. 

The special oddball investigation coming up but a disturbing answer to the infamous tape of the violated meter maid.  Is it really Silvio Berlusconi? The guy, not the meter maid. The answer lies in yet another videotape.

And the Randall McCloy interview, the sole survivor of the West Virginia mine tragedy finally home from the hospital and speaking exclusively with NBC.  The story’s ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN’S top three newsmakers of this day.

The Philadelphia Phillies baseball (INAUDIBLE) sent out more than 4,000 DVDs encouraging previous season ticket holders to renew for another campaign, sort of mix up at the production company.  At least two of those ticket holders got not a Phillies highlight tape but rather a cock fighting video.  Wait a minute.  That announcer is not Harry Callis (ph).

Number two, Jim Rinck in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He wants to unseat Republican Congressman Vern Ehlers.  Mr. Rinck describes Mr. Ehlers thusly.  Our congressman is the smartest person in the district and it might be the only place in the country that can say that, but he falls somewhat short on the charisma meter and it might take a somewhat less intelligent although much noisier person to get some things done for this district.  If I’m reading this right, his only possible campaign slogan appears to be, vote Rinck, louder, dumber, better.

Number one, Hooters Airline after a moderately successful three-year run, the airline announced it will be canceling regularly scheduled service April 17.  It will still run charter flights for sports teams and tour groups.  The business had simply begun to sag and the change was apparently the only alternative to going bust.  I’m sorry I would like to apologize to everyone in the world for that.  I’m sorry.  I’m sorry.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is probably a mathematically provable fact that most of the particularly accurate criticism of American reporters in Iraq has come from the commentators and the politicians who have spent the least amount of time in Iraq.  Our third story in the COUNTDOWN. Reporters who have been there seldom, no matter what their political perspective, criticize the others who have been there.  They all know.  And tonight perhaps none of them knows better than Jill Carroll, the “Christian Science Monitor” freelancer who is finally free after three months as a hostage. Our correspondent in Baghdad is James Hattori.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMES HATTORI, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  After appearing in videos as a hostage held at gunpoint, today Jill Carroll went on Baghdad TV a free woman. 

JILL CARROLL, FREED HOSTAGE:  I was kidnapped January 7.  I don’t know why, really I don’t know why.  I was not harmed.  They never said they would hit me or threatened me in any way. 

HATTORI:  This morning Carroll was inexplicably released on an east Baghdad street. 

CARROLL:  I don’t know what happened.  They just came to me and said, OK, we’re letting you go now. 

HATTORI:  She ended up on the doorstep of a Sunni political party office.  She presented a piece of paper with Arabic writing saying she’s Jill Carroll asking for help, this party official says.  Carroll, a freelance reporter for the “Christian Science Monitor,” was kidnapped in a bloody attack that left her Iraqi translator dead. 

CARROLL:  I really don’t know where I was.  The room had a window but the glass was, you can’t see and its curtains.  I once did watch television but I didn’t know what was going on in the outside world. 

HATTORI:  She told the Iraqis who found her this morning that she was not pressured psychologically and that her kidnappers seemed to be trustworthy people. 

JIM CARROLL, FATHER:  It’s been a long haul and we’re done with it now.

HATTORI:  Back in Chapel Hill, North Carolina,  Jill’s father Jim Carroll gave thanks and expressed concern for the 83 foreign hostages still held in Iraq. 

JIM CARROLL:  Don’t forget the other American hostages and other hostages of all nationalities still being held in Iraq. 

HATTORI:  In Boston, the Christian Science Monitor’s” editor insisted no ransom was paid. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There was absolutely no negotiations that took place for her release. 

HATTORI:  The U.S. ambassador to Iraq chose his words carefully. 

ZALMAV KHALILZAD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAW:  No U.S. person had made any arrangements with the kidnappers.  By U.S. person I mean the United States mission. 

HATTORI:  Details still to emerge, a story Jill Carroll didn’t expect to be part of. 

CARROLL:  I’m happy to be free.  I want to be with my family. 

HATTORI:  James Hattori, NBC News, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Another story of survival tonight, a different kind of captivity, a different kind of horror but the same sense of relief certainly. Nearly three months ago, 13 miners trapped in West Virginia lying there helplessly, waiting for rescuers to come to their aid after an initial and heart achingly inaccurate reports of their safe recovery, it proved only one had survived. Today that one, Randal McCloy Jr. was released from the hospital and returned home to his family.  A full recovery for him is still uncertain but doctors are calling his recovery thus far miraculous.  He has undoubtedly beaten the odds.  Now though he has to beat the sadness of having lost a dozen friends and colleagues.  Matt Lauer’s exclusive interview with Randy McCloy. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATT LAUER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Do you remember Randy when the first time was that you were told that you were the one who made it out alive and the others weren’t?

RANDAL McCLOY JR, SOLE SURVIVOR OF SAGO MINE DISASTER:  I believe that right there probably upset me the most because I just felt lonely like I’m the only one. 

LAUER:  People in situations like that often ask themselves why. 

McCLOY:  Yeah.  I did too. 

LAUER:  How do you answer that question? Is it there but for the grace of God?

McCLOY:  Yeah.  I’d say if you had to wrap it up in a nutshell, I’d say that would be it. 

LAUER:  How clear is your memory on what happened in that mine?

McCLOY:  Pretty clear.  I really don’t want to get into the details of it.  But some things happened that I rather I didn’t see.  But I did.  I don’t want anyone to say well, I didn’t hear about this and I have to hear it on the news.  I really don’t want that to happen. 

LAUER:  Do you remember being  rescued?

McCLOY:  No.  I had so much carbon monoxide in my lungs.  I couldn’t even breathe, much less speak properly. 

LAUER:  Had you played out in your mind what you would do in the event of something horrible happening in that mine?

McCLOY:  Yeah, but you can really not tell yourself enough to be prepared because you are blind sided because you can’t see.  You are running like a goose in a damn mine and you don’t even know where you’re going. 

LAUER:  And you have to hope that someone out there is looking for you. 

McCLOY:  Yeah.

LAUER:  On TV, you said if he’s alive, I will tell you right now, he’s going to come out of that mine. 

ANNA McCLOY, SURVIVORS WIFE:  (INAUDIBLE) I know Randy and I know his determination and his willpower. I know his love for me and the kids.  And I knew that if anybody was, it’s going to be him. 

LAUER:  So what are you seeing him do right now is just a part - you’ve always known it’s been inside of him. 

ANNA McCLOY:  Yeah, always. 

LAUER:  He was opening his eyes and (INAUDIBLE) left arm a lot and the left leg. but the right side wasn’t moving at all. 

LAUER:  So he couldn’t say your name, couldn’t say Randal his son’s name or Isabel?

ANNA McCLOY:  No.  In fact we didn’t even know if he knew who we were. 

You just never know with brain injury.

LAUER:  What was the first time when you realized, OK, he knows that it’s me? 

ANNA McCLOY:  I was talking to him and I told him I said, Randy, I know that you can’t talk right now, but if you know who I am just give me one kiss and he  kissed me. 

LAUER:  Did he lean up and do that? 

ANNA McCLOY:  He leaned up and he leaned his head up toward me. 

LAUER:  How hard did you cry?  I’m almost crying here.

ANNA McCLOY:  I lost it.  I never expected that. 

LAUER:  So you’re a little frustrated with the speed of things and yet everybody here seems to think the progress you’re making is going incredibly fast.  But it’s just not fast enough for you?

McCLOY:  That’s probably right. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  The McCloys with Matt Lauer.  In honor of Randal’s homecoming, West Virginia’s Governor announced the rural thoroughfare on which the couple lives will be renamed. They’re going to call it Miracle Road. 

Meanwhile tonight, a scandal continues to mushroom on the campus of Duke University.  The lacrosse team there, its season suspended.  Police investigating allegations of a gang rape at a team party. 

Naomi Campbell in handcuffs tonight.  From the catwalk to the perp walk.  Details ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  To those who organized the rally it must have come as bitter irony, the long planned event part of sexual assault prevention week.  But last night’s gathering at Duke University grew to three times its anticipated size and turned into a march across campus.  The reason?  Recent allegations of a brutal beating and rape by three players on the school’s lacrosse team.  That national championship caliber team has been suspended en masse pending a resolution.  Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, a nightmare at Duke and there are racial overtones, as well.  Our correspondent is Martin Savidge. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  A growing outcry, a sport season in jeopardy. 

RICHARD BRODHEAD, DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT:  I have decided that future games should be suspended. 

SAVIDGE:  And on the campus of one of the nation’s top universities, Duke, accusations of racial hatred and a terrible crime. It all centers around what happened in this home just over two weeks ago.  A party involving members of the men’s lacrosse team, some who played in this game last season.  There was underage drinking and two young African American women hired as dancers. 

MIKE NIFONG, DISTRICT ATTY:  They began to dance.  They were made to feel uncomfortable by racial comments that were being made and by the threatened use of a broomstick. 

SAVIDGE:  According to a police affidavit, one of the women says three of the men pushed her into the bathroom and forcefully held her legs and arms and sexually assaulted her for 30 minutes.  The victim says she was hit, kicked and strangled as she attempted to defend herself.  The allegedly victim is reportedly a young mother working her way through college.  Because she’s African American and those she has accused are   white, the incident has sparked concerns about racial attitudes on a campus where so many students come from white, and well to do families. 

JAYMYN  SINGLETON, DUKE SOPHOMORE:  A lot of the black females are afraid to walk around campus.  We do feel unsafe on our campus. 

SAVIDGE:  Forty six members of the men’s lacrosse team have submitted DNA samples. 

JOHN BURNESS, DUKE PUBLIC AFFAIRS:  The students have consistently said there was no sexual activity consensual or otherwise. 

SAVIDGE:  No charges have been filed but the district attorney expects that will change when the DNA test results come back early next week.  Martin Savidge, NBC News, Durham, North Carolina. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  No easy segue then to our nightly round-up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs, although there is a possible crime involved in the lead story. Naomi Campbell, throwing a phone, charged with assault and thus doing a crappy Russell Crowe impersonation.  The same city as Mr. Crowe’s phone flinging episode as well, Ms. Campbell arrested at her Park Avenue home in New York today, charged with second degree assault.  They say she threw a phone at her housekeeper’s head after an argument at about 8:00 this morning.  The 41-year old housekeeper receiving four stitches at a local hospital.  Campbell’s spokesman says the accusation is really a case of retaliation by the housekeeper.  He says Campbell fired that housekeeper this morning. He does not explain though how the housekeeper got that head laceration nor that fact that in 2000, Campbell pleaded guilty in a Canadian court to hitting her then person personal assistant.  The flying object at that point? Also a phone.  Telephone, telephone for Naomi Campbell.

And Tom Cruise’s latest “Mission Impossible” installment will be hitting theaters soon, but not without a lawsuit biting at its heels.  A special effects technician says that an explosion on the set of “Mission Impossible 3” caused him third degree burns over 60 percent of his body.  Steve Scott Weekly (ph) alleges negligence. Mr. Weekly says that a Chevrolet Suburban rigged with pyrotechnical material accidentally exploded on the set last June, engulfing him in a fireball. The defendants in the suit include Viacom, Paramount pictures and Tom Cruise’s company, Cruise Wagner Productions.

And the what the heck is this of the month. An instructional video for Tom Cruise? No. Images of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi getting friendly? The final answer is finally ahead. 

First, time for contenders for today’s three nominees for worst person in the world.  The bronze tonight to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  As he left church last Sunday, he reportedly made an obscene hand gesture to a reporter.  But the justice denied there was any gesture, that would be in English, the justice denied there would be any gesture, until that is, this photo of the incident shot by freelance photographer showed up today in the “Boston Herald.” That’s either a gesture or he’s checking his shave.  Now Justice Scalia quote, has no comment. 

Tonight’s runner up? Bill O’Reilly.  He’s declared the American press the quote, the most damaging institution in the country today because it’s so blatantly partisan and dishonest intellectually.  If that’s true Bill O, the American media is now partisan and intellectually dishonest, your work here is done. We’ve accomplished what you’ve set out to do.

But tonight’s winner, a double bill, claiming that the archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger Mahoney favors immigration because quote, he knows he’ll get those people in church when he doesn’t have anybody in church anymore, unquote.  Oh oh, Bill, that’s a Catholic biggie right there you’re talking about.  You may be going to hell.  Of course, one could argue you are already in your own private one.  Bill O’Reilly, today’s worst  person in the world!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  In our defense, we never claimed it was indeed him. Our consistent pursuit of journalistic integrity compelled us to use caveats like not able to confirm and cannot independently verify. I was just covering the butts of my outstanding support team.  But we showed you the tape, anyway.  How could we not?

Our number one story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, all good things must come to an end.  The news official now.  The video we found on the Internet of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is a fake.  This video of a man looking alarmingly like Berlusconi simulated something with a traffic enforcement officer of some kind. In fairness, the crack staff (INAUDIBLE) another Berlusconi video that cropped up days later, was obviously phony.  Hey, we’re batting 500 here.  The leader of Italy supposedly going for the gold, figuratively speaking of course. It wasn’t so much the nose picking part that got us thinking.  We didn’t believe this is the idea that an amateur photographer could go unnoticed lurking outside a caf’ as he stalked the leader of Italy.  It turns out both clips are from an independent German film called “Bye Bye Berlusconi,” the movie shot in Italy two years ago, premiered in Berlin just two months ago, a month ago.  It’s a comedy apparently, a German comedy and the man who blew the lid off our can of fun, wonkette.com editor Alex Pareene, Mr. Pareene, good evening. 

ALEX PAREENE, EDITOR, WONKETTE.COM:  :  Hi Keith.

OLBERMANN:  You originally posted that video that my staff never gets tired of seeing without any commentary, much as we did last week.  When did it all go wrong and were you as disappointed as we were and how did you find out it wasn’t what it seemed to be?

PAREENE:  We were so disappointed.  It was really like the biggest blow of the entire day.  Basically within 15 minutes of putting it up, I got about 50 emails from various Europeans, Italians and Germans, explaining that it actually wasn’t really Berlusconi and I was too distraught really to even think about it. 

OLBERMANN:  What do we know about the film itself? Are we not up on the latest German movie techniques and themes?

PAREENE:  Apparently, the German indy film market is much more varied than we could have possibly imagined. It’s a satire. It’s like supposed to be a - it’s supposed to look like a documentary and they obviously got a very good look alike and it’s supposed to influence the Italian elections which are coming up pretty soon. 

OLBERMANN:  Now, as you suggested, the filmmaker intended this was to be a satire. It was released before the Italian elections, but as you said in your post, the actual Mr. Berlusconi, who did not simulate anything with any meter maid is man who is known for comparing himself to Jesus and to Napoleon and he is a media mogul.  Do you think that such biting social commentary was necessary or useful here?

PAREENE:  Well, that’s kind of the issue I have with it, is that if you’re going to go to the trouble of finding a look alike to do a fake documentary about a man who, really a real documentary about him should have pretty much the exact same effect on the Italians elections that this video would. 

OLBERMANN:  Except for the part about the meter maid?

PAREENE:  Right. 

OLBERMANN:  There you go. 

PAREENE:  That part actually improved his rating.

OLBERMANN:  It’s Italy, who knows.  Alex Pareene of the blog, wonkette, great, thanks for joining us tonight. 

PAREENE:  All right, thanks.

OLBERMANN:  It was not Berlusconi. That’s COUNTDOWN for this the 1064 day since the declaration of mission accomplished in Iraq. I’m Keith Olbermann. Keep your knees loose. Good night and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with Rita Cosby, live and direct.

Good evening Rita. 

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