Guests: Spencer Hsu; Craog Craword; Mike Viqueira; Harry Shearer; Bill Goodykoontz
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of those stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Homeland security, or people you secure your home against? Homeland Security‘s deputy press spokesman charged with trying to seduce a 14-year-old girl over the Internet. Homeland Security‘s top law enforcement agent in Tampa charged with exposing himself to a 16-year-old girl in a mall. Who in the hell is running our supposed defense against terror?
He got out of the way of Enron. He got out of the way of Plamegate. Did the president just also get out of the way of the Abramoff mess, courtesy of Tom DeLay?
Wow. Nobody saw this coming.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “TODAY”)
KATIE COURIC, HOST: I decided I‘ll be leaving “TODAY” at the end of May.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Next you‘ll be telling me she‘s going to go anchor “The CBS Evening News.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDY ROONEY, CBS NEWS (on phone): But I don‘t know anybody at CBS News who is pleased that she‘s coming here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: How many morning hosts have ever succeeded as nightly news anchors? How many co-hosts have ever succeeded as solos?
Could you do a “Simpsons” film without Harry Shearer (ph)?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excellent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Of course not. And what does that have to do with Katie Couric? Production is under way as Evergreen Terrace meets the silver screen. Harry will join us. Can he do an impression of Katie Couric?
And how everybody can do an impression of Katie Holmes during childbirth. After the shocker that Tom Cruise and Scientology expect her to be silent during labor, another shocker about how. Think binkie (ph).
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “TODAY”)
TOM CRUISE: You don‘t even—you‘re glib. You don‘t even know what Ritalin is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Good evening.
In June 2002, after months of reluctance, President Bush signed off on creating a new Department of Homeland Security, one massive cabinet-level agency that would, among other things, protect America‘s borders, ports, and transportation systems, analyze intelligence from multiple sources, and respond to natural disasters. We all know how that last part worked out.
Tonight, in our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, a new suggestion for that list. How about a protecting America‘s teenagers from sexual predators who happen to be on the Department of Homeland Security payroll?
One of the department‘s spokesman picked up last night in a sex sting, the second agency official to be charged with a sexual offense involving a child since late last year, the most recent, Brian Doyle, the department‘s deputy press secretary, arrested on multiple charges, accused of trying to seduce a child into online sex and of transmitting pornographic material, authorities saying that last night when Mr. Doyle thought he was chatting online with a 14-year-old girl, one that he had been in communication with for three weeks, he was actually talking with an undercover detective who had been posing as the teenager, officers moving in to arrest Mr. Doyle in his Maryland home, and officials saying that at n point did he ever try to conceal his identity, in fact, he flaunted it, not only allegedly telling the detective posing as the little girl his name and title, but also giving her his office phone number and that of his government-issued cell phone, ironically, the arrest coming only hours after dramatic hearings on Capitol Hill about Internet predatators, one young man sharing the story of how, as a lonely 13-year-old with a Web camera, he was pulled into the world of child pornography, Brian Doyle‘s boss saying today tht the department is are cooperating fully with the investigation.
“We take these allegations very seriously. Doyle is a nonpay status, and his security clearance, employee badge, and facility access permission have been suspended.”
As for the other Homeland Security official charged with a sex crime, his name is Frank Figueroa, former head of Operation Predator, the Homeland Security program specifically targeting child sex predators, Mr. Figueroa today pleading no contest that he exposed and fondled himself in front of a teenaged girl in the food court of a mall in Orlando last October.
Spencer Hsu is the homeland security correspondent for “The Washington Post,” joins me now from Washington.
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
SPENCER HSU, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, “THE WASHINGTON POST”:
Thanks, Keith, good to be with you.
OLBERMANN: The deputy press secretary of a massive administration department which is itself constantly in the news. Was everybody on this beat surprised by this? Was there the least hint of an atypical personal life in this man?
HSU: Not that I‘ve been able to pick up in the last 24 hours. You know, this broke like a bit of a bombshell personally. He was the number two press person. These are small operations, as you know, about a half-dozen to a dozen people who regularly deal with the press.
Had a dozen colleagues just internally at “The Washington Post” who had some interaction with Brian Doyle, who asked, you know, could this be for real? There was some tipoff late last night. There were TV cameras at his home in Silver Springs, a suburb of Washington, that captured his arrest.
But certainly, in the media, and in his own headquarters, the press secretary was obviously surprised to be dealing with this last night.
OLBERMANN: If the reporters on the beat were blindsided, if the reporters at “The Post” were blindsided, how blindsided was the Department of Homeland Security?
HSU: You know, it‘s one of these questions where, you know, how could you pick something like this up? Obviously, they‘re looking at this. Obviously, as you mentioned, Congress is going to be looking at this question.
This is a fellow who is 55. He came out of the world of journalism, was at the “TIME” magazine Washington bureau from 1975 until 19 -- excuse me, until 2001. Joined TSA after 9/11 at the Transportation Security Administration, and then was hired by Secretary Chertoff and his press secretary last year when the secretary came on board.
I think that‘s the question that a lot of people are going to be asking is, how could you pick up on this, and what would you have to do differently?
OLBERMANN: Well, to that point, given that Homeland Security is supposed to be about security, and is constantly pushing this envelope of privacy versus the government‘s right to know, does it suggest any kind of weakness in its own background checks, or, indeed, would nothing they screen for turn up something awful like this?
HSU: Republican Representative Peter King of New York is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and said today that he wants an aggressive investigation of exactly that question. What are the hiring practices, what are the background procedures? Is Homeland Security as tough and as—are its standards as high as other national security agencies?
You know, it‘s always been said that in the intelligence world, how do you compromise people? You compromise them through sex and through money and through drugs. (INAUDIBLE) also ideology.
You know, in this case, it‘s widely known that there‘s a backlog of people in the federal government who are awaiting background checks. Generally, in the Homeland Security Department, everybody is required to get a background check. In the press operations, certainly, everyone is expected to get secret clearance.
But there are people in the press shop whose clearances go all the way to the most sensitive information. Problem is, it can take months. I‘ve heard reports from people that we talk to say that they can‘t even get e-mail access, because they haven‘t gotten the threshold clearances check.
Homeland Security tonight declined to say the status of Brian Doyle‘s security clearance, or on the status of his background checks. But again, this is something that Congress is now going to be looking into.
OLBERMANN: Would they have been, the whole department been, on any kind of heightened awareness relative to sex crimes after the case in Florida last October?
HSU: Probably not. I mean, it‘s an agency of 170,000, 180,000 people. And we also should be really careful, in this case and all cases, that these are just allegations. Nothing‘s been proven. Nothing has been conceded.
At a court appearance today, Brian Doyle‘s represented by his lawyer. They don‘t say that they‘re going to fight extradition, but there‘s no—there‘s still—it‘s good to keep an open mind in this case. The bottom line is that there‘s a lot of people who are employed by the agency, and in this case, what you do on the Internet, versus actually soliciting a girl, a minor, somebody you think is a minor, is a hard line to tell from afar.
OLBERMANN: Fair enough. Spencer Hsu of “The Washington Post,” great insight, great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
HSU: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: The good news for the Bush administration, the latest scandal du jour at least distracting from day two fallout stories over the resignation of Tom DeLay, including an apparent admission from the former majority leader that a third member of his staff will be indicted, or will cut a deal, in a plea in the Abramoff investigation, Congressman DeLay telling “TIME” magazine on Monday that three former aides had violated his trust, that‘s the way he put it.
Somewhat odd, considering that only two have entered into plea agreements. The former press secretary, Michael Scanlon, and the former deputy chief of staff Tony Rudy, that catch made Paul Kane (ph) today in the “Roll Call” publication.
Number three, therefore, appears to be a reference to Ed Buckham, Mr. DeLay‘s former chief of staff, who, if he is indeed indicted, would draw the case that much closer to Mr. DeLay.
Time now to call in our own Craig Crawford, also a columnist for “Congressional Quarterly” magazine.
Good evening, Craig.
CRAIG CRAWFORD, “CONGRESSIONAL QUARTERLY”: Hi. A lot of perp walks, I think, in Washington coming up.
OLBERMANN: Good grief.
And particularly this impending third indictment and/or plea deal, which, we assume, pertains to Ed Buckham. Would that explain the timing of Mr. Delay‘s resignation, would it answer the question of why yesterday?
CRAWFORD: I‘ve long thought, Keith, the federal investigation here and these indictments loomed very large for Congressman DeLay, and probably more so than the state case, where he‘s already been indicted. He might be able to get out of that one.
These federal prosecutors, though, are corralling some of—a lot of folks who worked around him. The question, of course, obviously, is, are they singing? Are they telling stories about him? And will he end up indicted? That had to be on his mind.
OLBERMANN: We mentioned the Buckham prospect, perhaps, obviously, dragging prosecutors closer and possibly (INAUDIBLE) a prosecution closer to DeLay. But has, at the same time, the whole scandal been dragged away from the president? We (INAUDIBLE), we saw in this in Enron. It did not basically touch him. Plamegate has largely veered off course, like an errant hurricane.
Is this now happening in the Abramoff case?
CRAWFORD: I wouldn‘t want to play dodgeball with President Bush. He‘s pretty good at stiff-arming these problems. Has a tried and true formula. You know, first you deny you even knew the culprit, or you don‘t remember it, anyway, and, or then you also try to conceal all the details of any meetings they had or photographs and so on.
And then you propose reform. And that formula has worked very well for him in Enron, with Ken Lay, with Jack Abramoff, and even with Tom DeLay in some ways.
OLBERMANN: But to some degree, does that—the validity of that assume that the conversation that Mr. Bush said he had with Mr. DeLay on the phone after the ballgame on Monday was not quite as advertised, at least some conversation with him was not quite as advertised, that it was not Tom DeLay telling the president, Oh, I‘m leaving the House, but more like the president telling DeLay, You‘re leaving the House? Would he have been that blunt, that hands-on?
CRAWFORD: Yes. I offer (ph) the days when presidents taped their conversations, so that 20 years from now, we could listen. This is one I would look up. I think it would be probably a case of, you know, presidents don‘t have to say, Hey, it‘s time to get out of town. They just have to make it clear they‘re not going to go to bat for you. That‘s what President Bush would—did with Trent Lott when he had to step down as Senate majority leader.
Just make it clear you‘re not going to go out there and fight for them, and they‘ll get the message.
OLBERMANN: By the way, you‘re assuming they don‘t tape anymore. It‘d be a lot easier (INAUDIBLE)...
CRAWFORD: Yes, I know, yes.
OLBERMANN: --(INAUDIBLE) voicemail system (INAUDIBLE). Do you know where (INAUDIBLE)...
CRAWFORD: (INAUDIBLE), they‘re just taping everybody else now.
OLBERMANN: Well, that‘s true. Do you have Alex Butterfield‘s phone number? We can call him up, ask him if that‘s what‘s in there or not.
All right, lastly on this, have the Republican, Republicans as a whole, has the party dodged a bullet because of DeLay‘s resignation? Or could this still, if not damage the president, damage the party?
CRAWFORD: I heard a lot of sighs of relief yesterday, and they were all Republicans. Democrats were the ones sort of hitting the rafters, trying to find a way to spin this, to keep it alive.
I don‘t think there‘s any question that Tom DeLay was a much greater threat to the Republican Party, and a much greater benefit to the Democratic Party, so long as he stayed in office. Even when he stepped down as House majority leader, I was saying that. And now that he‘s going to leave Congress altogether, it makes it very tough for Democrats to make him a poster child for the culture of corruption. But there are a lot of other characters out there for them to focus on, trials coming up, and so on.
OLBERMANN: Yes, I still expected to see Howard Dean wearing a black armband today, but it didn‘t happen.
Craig Crawford of MSNBC and “Congressional Quarterly,” as always, sir, great thanks.
CRAWFORD: Good to be here.
OLBERMANN: Meantime, will a member of the House face charges for hitting a Capitol Hill police officer? Will she be defending herself by quoting a clause in the United States Constitution? There are late developments tonight in the Cynthia McKinney case.
And finally, after nearly 16 months of speculation, there is actual news in the Katie Couric case. Will her switch to nightly news be reminiscent of that of Tom Brokaw, or reminiscent of that of Bryant Gumbel?
You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Representative Cynthia McKinney is calling it racism, but so far not even her fellow Democrats appear to be agreeing with her.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, racial profiling by security people? Or simply the arrogance of the elected?
The African-American lawmaker struck a Capitol police officer when he stopped her at a security checkpoint in the Longworth House Office Building. Members of Congress are permitted to pass through security without going through the magnetometers. But when the officer did not recognize the congresswoman from Georgia, he called out to her. After no response, he caught up with her, grabbed her by the arm to get her attention. She swung and punched him in the chest.
The officer wants to press charges. In her defense, Representative McKinney is calling the incident racial profiling. Capitol police have turned the case over to the Justice Department. The U.S. attorney, Kenneth Weinstein, will decide whether or not any charges will be brought against McKinney. The Capitol police chief, Terrance Gaynor (ph), believes prosecutors should charge the congresswoman for the incident, denying the scuffle had anything to do with racism.
To counter the congresswoman‘s vilification of Capitol police, House Republicans introduced a resolution to commend their hard work and professionalism. Some Republicans responded wearing pins reading “I Love Capitol Police” around the House building.
The House minority leader and her fellow Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, voiced her opinion on the situation today, saying she could not think of a reason for anybody that would justify striking an officer.
The story continues to grow.
Let‘s turn to Mike Viqueira of our Capitol Hill bureau.
Mike, good evening.
MIKE VIQUEIRA, NBC CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Chris—
(INAUDIBLE) -- Keith.
OLBERMANN: How did this go from, at worst, one of the two of them making a minor mistake to something that‘s going to a grand jury now?
VIQUEIRA: That‘s right, we reported about three hours ago, Keith, that a grand jury that is probably already empaneled down at the D.C. district courthouse, just at the base of the Capitol Hill from the United States Capitol, is going to be hearing testimony.
It was announced to the House chamber late this afternoon, early this evening, that a gentleman who works for Representative Sam Farr, his name is Troy Phillips, a senior legislative assistant, fulfilled his obligation under House rules to notify the House clerk that he would be testifying before a grand jury. That was read before the entire House earlier this evening around 7:00 Eastern time.
So it appears that the U.S. attorney‘s office does not have quite enough information that they feel comfortable going either way with this investigation, or bringing charges, or putting out an arrest warrant for Representative McKinney. Of course, it was referred to the U.S. attorney‘s office by the Capitol police.
The policeman in question here, who was involved in the altercation with Representative McKinney, felt as though he wanted to move forward. It was referred as charges stemming from Capitol Hill often are, to the U.S. attorney, and now they are taking it to a grand jury, trying to determine just what the facts are, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Not to say that there isn‘t racism connected to some of the coverage of the story. There was one conservative commentator who made some indefensible remarks about the congresswoman‘s new hairstyle. But the reality is, she got a new hairstyle. It‘s a dramatic difference. Could there have been a—just a lack of recognition that tripped this all off?
VIQUEIRA: Well, let me say two things. First of all, the night of the State of the Union, about two months ago this week, I was in the House chamber looking down at preparations being made. There are number of members, as you know, who gather on either side of the center aisle to shake the president‘s hand when he‘s coming through.
I saw a member down there that I didn‘t recognize. And it took 10 minutes of conversation and thought between me and my colleagues to recognize that it was Representative McKinney.
Earlier this evening in the Capitol, as I was on my way over here to the NBC bureau, I ran into some Democratic members in the basement of the Capitol who had just finished meeting, and they said they themselves did not represent—recognize Representative McKinney when Congress came back into session in January. She had changed her hairstyle, basically, which is a point of contention that the representative has brought up many times now.
Furthermore, Representative McKinney was not wearing the congressional pin that many members wear to identify themselves to the Capitol police. But I have to tell you, after eight years on Capitol Hill and in the House of Representatives, about half the members don‘t wear them, and routinely go around the magnetometers or metal detectors.
So, you know, it‘s quite possible that the policeman did not recognize Representative McKinney. It happens quite frequently. The Capitol police are in a difficult position, because representatives can walk around at any time. If you‘re talking to a representative, you yourself, I, could walk around a magnetometer.
So it‘s difficult. And many of the Capitol police have this sort of low-level resentment that I think we saw from Chief Gaynor today—incidentally, today was Chief Gaynor‘s last day, so he was free to speak just as freely as he might—towards having to have 435 bosses, some of whom, a very few of whom, feel that they are above the rules. Not to say that Representative McKinney was motivated by that. But you hear this griping, and I have heard it for years.
OLBERMANN: And lastly, she may go, she may turn to the Constitution in her defense, Article 1, Section 6?
VIQUEIRA: Well, there‘s just one question over just, you know, what that means, and what is meant by “when Congress is in session.” You know, a few years ago, the legendary Democrat from West Virginia over on the Senate side, Bob Byrd, was stopped by a traffic officer on his way to or from the Capitol and told the officer that he could not be cited for whatever traffic violation that the officer pulled him over for because Congress was in session, and, hey, it‘s in the Constitution.
Well, there was some dispute over whether or not that was accurate. For you C-Span geeks out there, it‘s called sine die, at the end of the year, when Congress goes out of session, that‘s what they call the adjournment resolution. So is it when Congress is actually in session in any given day, or is it when Congress is in session in any given year? And I think that‘s one of the questions that‘s on the table here.
OLBERMANN: “The senators and representatives shall, in all cases except treason, felony, and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same.”
Mike Viqueira of our Capitol Hill bureau. Great thanks, Mike.
VIQUEIRA: Thank you, Mr. Olbermann.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir.
From charges of racism to allegations of animal cruelty. You‘d think, considering how rabbits are always accused of breeding like rabbits, people would be happy when two of them got married first.
Speaking of allegations of cruelty and marriage, Tom Cruise has allegedly been shopping for pacifiers. Not for the baby, but for this baby bride.
Details ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Heck of a date historically for actors. Spencer Tracy was born on April 5. So was Bette Davis, to say nothing of Gregory Peck and Melvyn Douglas, and the late Frank Gorshin. Let‘s celebrate them by humiliating some bunny rabbits.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin with the nuptials of Roberto, the “Guinness Book of Records”‘ world‘s largest rabbit. The three-foot-six-inch groom wore a bowler hat as he married his bunny bride, Amy, in a ceremony Sunday in the Wookie Hole (ph) Caves in England. Wookie Hole Caves. Sounds like a newspaper headline after a construction accident in a “Star Wars” movie.
Britain‘s Animal Protection Agency criticized the mock wedding, saying it belittled the animals, not to mention the fact that they both wore fur. Roberto and Amy have been married for three days and have 427 lovely children.
To Italy for more on controversial Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. This is not Silvio Berlusconi here in this video. We seem to have misplaced all of our real Berlusconi file tapes. Oh, hello! The actual prime minister has come under fire for basically doing the verbal equivalent of this video. In an address to a merchants‘ group, Berlusconi attacked left-wing voters his country, calling them “coglioni.” Translated roughly into English, that would be Dick Durbinheads, without the reference to Congressman Durbin in the middle.
Berlusconi later apologized, but his lookalike, shown here, had no immediate comment.
Finally, to Prague, where one small brewery says it has produced the world‘s strongest beer, a brew so potent, this guy has to use big metal tongs just to pour the stuff. It may dissolve my fingers. The Umed Kivo (ph) brewers say X-Beer-33 has an alcoholic content of 12.6 percent. It carries the slogan, “Never Drink It Alone.” That‘s why the only person to finish a six-pack of the stuff is Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Oh, man, he‘s hammered. Oh, for God‘s sakes, burn the tape, burn the tape. That‘s not him.
Will traditional news viewers need an X-Beer-33 to get through “The CBS Evening News With Katie Couric”? Get out your crystal ball as we check out the future of the Tiffany Network.
And no more guessing as to when the “Simpsons” movie is coming out. The date‘s been set. The first trailer‘s been released. We will try to get some script secrets out of Harry Shearer (INAUDIBLE).
Those stories ahead.
But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
There‘s a minitheme tonight.
Number three, Joseph Hores of Belmore, New York, arrested for driving while intoxicated after he asked two guys for directions because he was lost. The two guys happened to be police officers, and the building he pulled up in front of was the Nassau County Highway Police Headquarters. Oops.
Number two, Lauren Yoder of Bloomington, Indiana. Mr. Hores had nothing on her. She was arrested for public intoxication after deciding she really needed to sit down for a while, even if it was in the back seat of a car. The car into whose back seat she climbed was a police car at the parking lot of the Bloomington police headquarters.
And number one, Nick Flynn of Foulmere (ph), England. You remember him? He‘s the guy who smashed three ancient Chinese K‘ung Dynasty vases at the Fitzwilliam Museum in London in January? This was the accident in which he tripped over his shoelaces, fell down a flight of stairs, and crashed into this unprotected display. He was arrested this morning. Police think he may have done all of it deliberately. Now, the good news is, if he could pull that off, he will get to play Inspector Clouseau in the next “Pink Panther” remake, and not Steve Martin.
OLBERMANN: Breaking news: Katie Couric is leaving NBC‘s “The Today Show” to become anchor and managing director of “The CBS Evening News”—our third story on the COUNTDOWN.
Oh, and, by the way, this just in: Lindbergh has made it safely to Paris.
In a moment, two questions about this I don‘t think anybody asked even Katie Couric and Les Moonves themselves.
First, the blow-by-blow about how Couric became the C. in CBS, leaving somebody else to handle the—the B.S.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”)
KATIE COURIC, CO-HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW”: After listening to my heart and my gut, two things that have served me pretty well in the past, I have decided I will be leaving “Today” at the end of May.
The notion that we‘re a family is not just some cheesy promotional device. I really care deeply about the people here, from everyone who works behind the scenes, to the faces that are—are familiar to all of you, like Al and Ann and, yes, of course, Matt.
Once in a while, we get on each other‘s nerves.
COURIC: Well, he gets on my nerves.
COURIC: Just as Dorothy said to the Scarecrow, I think I‘m going to miss him most of all.
MATT LAUER, CO-HOST, “THE TODAY SHOW”: Also coming up in this half-hour...
LAUER: It‘s hard to imagine being here and not having you sitting next to us.
COURIC: Oh. Goodbye already.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: It could have been worse. She could have called him glib.
Amid the hugs and kisses and the speculation about the effect of all this on the morning-show race and latest trophy head on the wood-panel den of CBS chair Les Moonves, not everybody thinks it‘s a good idea, not after ratings and critical success under the longest running substitute in network news history, Bob Schieffer.
In fact, to hear one CBS vet tell it, nobody thinks it‘s a good idea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDY ROONEY, “60 MINUTES”: I‘m not enthusiastic about it. I think everybody likes Katie Couric. I mean, how can you not like Katie Couric? But I don‘t know anybody at CBS News who is pleased that she‘s coming there. It has been such a success story for Bob.
BERNARD KALB, FORMER CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Katie Couric is identified with interviewing celebrities. You don‘t see her being identified with the chaos of the world.
I‘m thinking of a world in turmoil, of a world in which you need a lot of firsthand experience. You had to have had your foot on the ground, to have met these various people in their own environment. And I think Bob Schieffer and my able colleagues at CBS News, they do quite well. But this is a ratings war, and it is a surrender to ratings.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: One other note tonight: Couric‘s hiring was mentioned at the start of “The CBS Evening News” and at the finish. And in between was a promotional announcement extolling the ratings gains of “The CBS Evening News” with Bob Schieffer.
Back here at the ranch, we know nothing about a replacement on “Today.” The hot rumor is Meredith Vieira, formally of CBS News, more recently of “The View” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”
Two secrets we can supply: Years ago, her kids were taught in preschool by my mother and my sister. And courtesy the Web site Internet Movie Database, has stated on “The View” that, because she wears pantyhose, she doesn‘t wear underwear. She thinks it would be redundant to wear both.
And that‘s the way it is, Wednesday, April 5, 2006.
OLBERMANN: As promised, time to call in TV columnist Bill Goodykoontz of “The Arizona Republic.”
Thank you for your time tonight, sir.
BILL GOODYKOONTZ, “THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC”: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: I promised two questions I didn‘t think even Les Moonves and Katie Couric pondered. Here‘s one of them.
The last person to successfully go from morning TV to evenings in the news to a nightly newscast or a Bryant Gumbel news show was Tom Brokaw, before him, John Chancellor. And that was when “The Today Show” was a—a hard-news broadcast, with an occasional light feature.
But Bryant Gumbel didn‘t make the—the time switch work. And, of course, Barbara Walters didn‘t. It‘s a different time of day. Aren‘t people watching at 6:30 at night different? Don‘t they have different expectations?
GOODYKOONTZ: Yes. Well, one—for one thing, I think they‘re a lot older, at least right now.
And I think this is one of the things that CBS is hoping to address. I don‘t know that—I mean, Katie Couric, certainly, she is younger than Bob Schieffer.
But I think you‘re right. The—the—the people in the morning, they are sort of getting ready for work. They‘re—you know, they‘re—the whole thing is set up, so you can watch five minutes of it, go away for 10 minutes, come back and catch five more minutes.
The nightly news is—it‘s the same was it ever was, really. I mean, they—they makes small tweaks. Everybody has made a big deal out of Schieffer, you know, talking to the correspondents a little bit, what—what sometimes you think of in local news as sort of happy talk. But it does seem to be unscripted. He seems to be asking them real questions. That seems to have made—made a—made an impression.
But, I mean, when you get down to it, it‘s the—CBS had talked about sort of blowing up the model, and, you know, this new format. And, really, they have gone about as traditional a route as you can go.
OLBERMANN: Ironically—you mentioned her age—she will be the oldest of the—of the anchors, at least officially, the ones on the rosters right now.
OLBERMANN: Up—also to this point, there was an AP poll that just came out that asked if they—if people would rather see her in the mornings or at night. Forty-nine percent, in the morning, and 29 percent said in the evening.
The other question I have got that I don‘t think anybody has addressed
and it‘s something I have personal experience with—she didn‘t anchor “The Today Show.” She co-anchored it. A lot of people who might not have liked her or didn‘t care one way or the other about her could still watch because of Matt Lauer, because of Al Roker, because of Ann Curry.
On “SportsCenter,” I used to say that Dan Patrick and I worked well together because, just when you started to get sick of me, Dan would come on. And, just when you started to get sick of Dan, I would come on.
Why is it assumed that she‘s going to be a successful solo act, when she‘s out there for a half-an-hour, with correspondents, but she‘s the only one in the chair?
GOODYKOONTZ: Well, I think the assumption is that she was the draw.
Yes, I mean, it‘s—it‘s a team in name and—but there‘s always a first among equals. You know, there‘s always a Jordan to a—to a Pippen. And I think that—you know, just look at their—their reported salaries. I mean, hers dwarfs everybody else, if you can believe what you read and what you hear.
And, I mean, I think that what CBS is betting, again, if you can believe it, a fair amount of money on, is that she is the draw for “The Today Show.”
OLBERMANN: Round this out for...
GOODYKOONTZ: We will—we will find out if that is true.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Well, that—exactly to that point, round this out for me, with the—with the expectations within the industry.
Is there a consensus on how “The CBS Evening News With Katie Couric” will fare and how “The Today Show” without Katie Couric will fare?
GOODYKOONTZ: I—the smart money has got to be “The Today Show” is going to take a dip and that the—“The Evening News” will take a jump up, at least as people sample it.
I mean, this could be, frankly, one of those stories that—that media people are interested in a little more than, you know, the guy at the coffee shop. I don‘t know. I have certainly done a lot of work on it. I‘m sure everybody else who works in the media has.
But I—I think that, you know, what is going to happen—how could people not tune in for a little bit, because of the amount of coverage this thing is getting? The trick is, will they stick around? I don‘t know.
I mean, it‘s just going to be another person reading the news in the same way that it has been done. I—so, there‘s just—there‘s no way of knowing until it starts. I think you have got to believe, though that “The Today Show” is going to suffer, because she has really come to sort of epitomize that show. She‘s the face of “The Today Show.”
OLBERMANN: Well, she is—she is going to be in competition in parts of country with—with Dan Abrams and in others with—with Chris Matthews. So, I don‘t know if that‘s going to work out too well for her. We will find out.
OLBERMANN: Bill Goodykoontz, the TV columnist to “The Arizona Republic”—great thanks for your time tonight, Bill.
GOODYKOONTZ: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: On that last point, we decided to do a little gazing into the crystal ball ourselves.
CBS has not given a start date for Katie and the news, but we have concluded there are five possibilities for that date, plus one year, five different scenarios for the way it is one year after she signs on.
Number one, she‘s a hit, and, by then, she‘s just pulling into a tie for first place with Brian Williams.
Number two, oh, no, she‘s not. She‘s just pulling into a tie for last place with Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas of Noticiero Univision.
Number three, after an initial curiosity surge, the ratings collapsed eight months ago, and nobody could stand her voice. So, six months ago, just like Barbara Walters, she left the news desk to instead anchor “Katie Couric Interviews” specials for CBS—first guest, Meredith Vieira. First question is about underwear.
Option number four, it went worse than that. She‘s now hosting HBO‘s “Real Sports With Katie Couric.”
And, number five, she‘s still at CBS, but the ratings have plateaued, so they have brought in as co-anchor MSNBC‘s Connie Chung...
OLBERMANN: ... who would look just that surprised.
Or maybe Big Bird and Elmo—more television as news, complaints tonight that they‘re doing infants more harm than good.
And, Yes, Katie Holmes is way too old for a pacifier, but that isn‘t stopping rumors that Tom Cruise will use one to keep her quiet during childbirth.
You know, I have won two Edward R. Murrow Awards, and I‘m doing this story tonight.
Those stories ahead, but, first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three sound bites of this day.
STEVEN GLICK: Yes. Good morning to Mr. President.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Why don‘t you tell...
GLICK: Welcome to Connecticut.
BUSH: Yes, it‘s good to be back. I was born here. Good to be back here.
GLICK: Before I...
BUSH: Educated here.
GLICK: Before—we love that.
GLICK: Before I make my remarks, I would like to have my wife, Sally Glick, and partner in the business, stand up. She‘s in the middle of the row up there. Welcome.
BUSH: That‘s a pretty good move. Yes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE TODAY SHOW”)
LAUER: But, again, May, we‘re going to have—boy, are we going to have some fun. And we‘re going to live through a lot of great memories.
LAUER: We‘re going to throw one huge party, too. So, anyway...
LAUER: ... well done, well done.
We are back...
COURIC: Get your hand off my knee.
LAUER: We are back right after this.
AL ROKER, NBC METEOROLOGIST: Can‘t wait to see Bob Schieffer do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”)
JON STEWART, HOST, “THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART”: Tom “The Hammer” DeLay...
STEWART: ... stepping down from Congress. And why? Was it because of a money-laundering charge coming from a redistricting scheme he engineered? Perhaps a rebuke from the House Ethics Committee for promising campaign contributions in exchange for votes. Or perhaps it was his close ties to lobbyist and convicted felon Jack Abramoff. Or perhaps it was the time he beat up Fonzie and stole his hair.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: There are a lot of things that are bad for infants: beer, siblings, open electrical sockets. But Elmo, Big Bird and Snuffleupagus?
Our number two story on the COUNTDOWN, that‘s exactly what some child experts are now warning, that parents need to keep their children away from “Sesame Street.”
Our correspondent Michael Okwu‘s report is brought to you by the number six.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SESAME STREET)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: A, B, C, D, E, F...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL OKWU, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At a video store near you, Elmo.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SESAME STREET)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: That‘s a good idea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OKWU: And Big Bird, the Cookie Monster, too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SESAME STREET)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR (singing): Oh, cookie, cookie, cookie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OKWU: They‘re likely among your child‘s best friends, and hard to believe child development experts are coming out against their new DVD.
DR. ALVIN POUSSAINT, CLINICAL PROFESSOR OF PSYCHIATRY, HARVARD MEDICAL
SCHOOL: I think it‘s risky. I think it‘s kind of an uncontrolled experiment on babies.
OKWU: The DVDs, “Sesame Beginnings,” from the producers of “Sesame Street,” target babies as young as six months old.
DR. DONALD SCHIFRIN, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: They are developing their brains very significantly. And there are better things for them to do.
OKWU: Experts worry, babies who watch TV may develop language and learning problems. And the American Academy of Pediatrics says, parents should keep their babies away from TV.
SCHIFRIN: We would prefer to have youngsters under the age of 2 not watching television.
OKWU (on camera): Studies show that only 6 percent of parents are aware of the academy‘s recommendations. Some child development experts are worried that the power of the Sesame brand will convince parents that their babies will benefit from watching videos.
(voice-over): Marketing to the under-2 set is already big business.
You might have watched “Baby Einstein” with your kids, or “Blue‘s Clues.”
The parents we found were genuinely open to the new Sesame DVDs.
VANESSA, MOTHER: And anything to educate our children and make them feel good and make them laugh.
OKWU: The folks at Sesame Workshop say the videos are designed to promote parent-child interaction and to educate parents about their kids, their moods.
ROSEMARIE TRUGLIO, VICE PRESIDENT, SESAME WORKSHOP: This is not a DVD that is designed to maintain the visual attention of babies, so parents can just plop them down in front of the television.
OKWU: They even recommend, after 30 minutes, you simply turn off the DVD. The question: Are you tuning into your baby or turning her on to bad habits?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SESAME STREET”)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS (singing): Can you tell me how to get, how to get to “Sesame Street”?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OKWU: Michael Okwu, NBC News, Los Angeles.
OLBERMANN: Another potential danger to your baby, Tom Cruise—well, to his baby. That‘s the lead, as we segue into our nightly roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.”
In an attempt to quiet down his bride-to-be, Katie Holmes, during labor, “Us Weekly” reporting that the devout Scientologist, Mr. Cruise, has purchased a custom-made adult-sized pacifier. The Church of Scientology has strict guidelines for would-be mothers: silent birth, meaning no screaming during the pains of labor. It is taught that screams of pain can have a highly negative effect on the child‘s psyche.
The Hollywood star vehemently denies purchasing such a device.
Cruise‘s publicist called the Binky buzz bunk.
Deja vu, meanwhile, for Eminem. The Oscar-winning rapper has filed for divorce just 82 days after marriage. This is the second divorce from his second marriage to the same woman, his high school sweetheart, Kim Scott. Their first marriage ended in 1991. His ex-wife became his inspiration for many of his most popular songs, one in particular titled “Kim.” And Eminem kills her off at the end of the song, telling her to—quote—“Bleed, bitch, bleed”—unquote.
The two reconciled in 2004. Just a couple of months later, Eminem announced his plans to marry again. The rapper and his two-time wife have a child from their first marriage. And it sounds like she has just given him another six or seven albums of high-quality lyrical material.
From Eminem to Burns and Smithers, the “Simpsons” movie. Harry Shearer will tell us whatever he can tell us about it, and other things, next.
But, first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s list of today‘s three nominees for “worst Person in the World.”
The bronze: to authorities in Great Britain. They stopped a flight as it was leaving Durham for London, and, off it, pulled passenger Harraj Mann for questioning. His crime? On the taxi ride to the airport, he had sung along with the “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin and “London Calling” by the Clash.
Because of lyrics like “War is declared” and “Battle come down,” the cab driver thought the guy might have been a terrorist.
The runner-up tonight, Brett R. Steidler of Reamstown, Pennsylvania. He has pleaded guilty to building a tiny bomb and mailing it to a cosmetic surgeon because he wasn‘t satisfied with the job the surgeon had done. Mr. Steidler had gone to him for penis enlargement.
But tonight‘s winner, the cheerleaders for the UCLA basketball team, which lost to Florida Monday night in the national championship game. Florida center Joakim Noah says that, during the game, the UCLA cheerleaders, the girls, mind you, taunted him and called him ugly.
Now, it‘s possible that Noah should be the nominee here, because they might have just been spelling out U-C-L-A. And maybe he heard U-G-L-Y. Otherwise, the UCLA Bruin cheerleaders, today‘s “Worst Persons in the World.”
OLBERMANN: The good news is, the “Simpsons” movie is in production, just 13 years after the idea was first publicly floated in an Internet chat with creator Matt Groening—an Internet chat in 1993. They were still using steam-powered computers back then.
The bad news is, the next new episode of the show will be number 373, leaving the very realistic question, what‘s left for a plot?
We have two hints tonight, one upcoming from our special guest, Harry Shearer, we hope, and the other from the trailer that appeared in theaters premiering “Ice Age: The Meltdown” last weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: In 2007, leaping his way on to the silver screen, the greatest hero in American history.
DAN CASTELLANETA, ACTOR: I forgot what I was supposed to say.
NARRATOR: “The Simpsons” movie, opening worldwide July 27, 2007.
CASTELLANETA: Uh-oh. We better get started.
HARRY SHEARER, ACTOR: Excellent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Joining me now, the man behind the “Excellent,” Harry Shearer.
OLBERMANN: In addition to the movie, his collection of his TV highlights, including the immortal synchronized swimming sketch from “Saturday Night Live,” is out on a DVD called “Now You See It.” Also just released, a new C.D. called “Dropping Anchors,” paying satirical tributes to new TV news icons. harry Shearer brand thermometers, and professional-grade pizza kilns are also available at a store near you and in the lobby.
OLBERMANN: Harry, good evening. Thanks for joining us.
SHEARER: Now what will you pay?
SHEARER: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, “The Simpsons” movie, the trailer doesn‘t really give us much. Anything—anything out there you can share about the plot or the cast? Or is it going to be in color?
SHEARER: Yes. Sadly, Keith, I have been fitted with an adult-sized pacifier. So...
SHEARER: .. there‘s a limit to what I can tell you.
SHEARER: And that‘s true.
It‘s the—it‘s the usual “Simpsons” cast, plus a couple of guest stars. It‘s all animated—no live action. We have—we have seen to that. And it‘s a big story. As—as, you know, as the trailer tries to suggest, it‘s a story of, shall we say, large-screen size.
OLBERMANN: That‘s right. Heroism is implied by that trailer.
SHEARER: Hero—heroism is implied, yes.
OLBERMANN: All right.
We—might we get to see Waylon Smithers‘ unrequited love for Monty Burns finally become realized?
SHEARER: Oh, from your man to James L. Brooks‘ ears or whatever part of James Brooks is listening.
I—I‘m not sure that that‘s something I‘m allowed to talk—to talk about. Keith, I think that‘s what justifies the—if not the price of the ticket, at least the high price of the popcorn.
OLBERMANN: Swearing? Will there be swearing?
SHEARER: Yes. It‘s a little—it‘s not an 8:00 show, you know? I -
I think—now, certainly, “The Simpsons” did pioneer in some, shall we say, as—as they say in the ratings box, adult language.
And I think we are—we‘re taking a little more advantage of that in the motion picture theater than we could on FOX television. You know, every year we have been on FOX, I think they have added two more layers to the standards and practices department just to deal with us.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Groening joked, in the announcement of the film, we have been running a little behind schedule, but only by about 15 years or so.
OLBERMANN: Do you have any idea why it took so long to go to—go to film?
SHEARER: Well, as you know, Keith, every decision in show business takes about 10 years longer than it should.
SHEARER: Also, I think, in fairness, the show is a full, year-long job for the writers.
And I think they needed to acquire and accumulate a large enough stable—word not chosen for its barnyard implications—a large enough stable of writers that they could hive off some of the veterans to do the movie, while the younger guys kept working on the TV show.
SHEARER: And that really did take a lot of time.
OLBERMANN: Obviously, there would be huge anticipation for this. But are you also concerned that—that you might “Flintstone” here, that it wouldn‘t hold up at length, or that it might be a little much to announce a movie now, when it‘s not going to be released for another 450 days or so?
SHEARER: You think it‘s premature? Is that what you‘re implying?
OLBERMANN: I‘m just—it‘s going to be a lot of previews. Katie Couric switched networks faster than this.
SHEARER: Yes, but with less hype.
SHEARER: With more hype.
No, it—yes, look, in the—in the post “Godzilla”-era that we—we‘re living in now, movies are hyped for a year, a year-and-a-half before they ever come out. I wish this weren‘t the norm, but it is.
And, as—as for whether we‘re going to “Flintstone,” I would prefer to think we are we‘re going to “South Park.”
All right. And let me switch topics here. Given your tribute to other TV newscasters on the “Dropping Anchors” DVD, Ted Koppel, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw—on C.D., rather—I remember, years ago, your explanation, the key for Brokaw was using the word “tonight” as often as possible, especially in connection...
OLBERMANN: ... with the work of his correspondent George Lewis.
Do you have any advice for the rookie on the block here, Katie Couric, on the day of the announcement?
SHEARER: Well, I think, you know, she—she‘s a veteran enough person in television, she already knows this. But don‘t listen to the handlers, and don‘t listen to the consultants, because that just makes it easier for people in my line of—of work to make fun of her.
You know, it—it—it—when you listen to those people who say, here‘s what you do that‘s great and here‘s what you shouldn‘t do anymore, it just turns you into a caricature and saves us the trouble of thinking about who and what you‘re doing.
So, I would say, you know, don‘t listen to those people. And, you know, it‘s 6:30 in the evening. But, in—in the summertime, it‘s still daylight. So, be perky.
OLBERMANN: I don‘t think you‘re going to have to convince her on that part.
OLBERMANN: Harry Shearer of TV...
SHEARER: But, you know, as—as Tom...
SHEARER: As Tom Brokaw would say, she‘s a lovely, talented lady. We wish her luck galore.
OLBERMANN: Harry Shearer, TV, radio, DVDs, C.D.s, and, once again, film, great thanks for your time tonight, sir.
SHEARER: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,070th 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 & DIRECT.”
Good evening, Rita.
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