updated 4/26/2006 11:36:20 AM ET 2006-04-26T15:36:20

Guests: Larry Johnson, Greg Mitchell, Rick Klein, Jerry Della Femina, Paul Mooney

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

The new McCarthyism.  Fired 10 days before she was to retire for leaking secrets to a reporter, secrets she says she never even knew.  Mary O. McCarthy will not say it, but others will.  She is the CIA‘s scapegoat.

The president has gas.  His solution to the crisis, we don‘t have to add 2,500 barrels a day to the strategic petroleum reserve.  Political brilliance, says one oil expert, since the reserve is almost filled to the brim anyway.

Is this advertising brilliance?  What about this?  Why you can be too famous to pitch a product on TV.

And why this guy is America‘s leading celebrity in positive purchase impact.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is there anyone at home?

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OLBERMANN:  Who is that?  You know who this is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It‘s amazing to see how much talent there is outside of Hollywood.

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OLBERMANN:  If you say so.  The phenomenon of viral video and the Web site that plays 40 million clips a day.

And standing room only, on a plane.  Is a commercial jet manufacturer really experimenting with the really cheap seats?  First, no meal.  Then, no pillow.  Now, no seat?

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “AIRPLANE”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Surely, you can‘t be serious.

LESLIE NIELSEN:  I am serious.  And don‘t call me Shirley.

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OLBERMANN:  Good evening.

In the Red Scare witch hunt of the 1950s, McCarthy, Senator Joseph McCarthy, was the hunter.  In what her friends and some of her ex-colleagues are calling the Bush administration‘s witch hunt against any leaks or leakers it does not view as politically expedient, McCarthy, fired CIA analyst Mary McCarthy, is the hunted.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, red used to mean the farthest left.  Now it means the farthest right.  But a witch hunt is still a witch hunt, and McCarthyism, whether named for proponent or victim, still sends shivers.

In a moment, the analysis of one of Mary McCarthy‘s former employees at the agency, Larry Johnson, on the possibility that we have ourselves a scapegoat.

The modern-day McCarthy‘s categorical denial on Monday that she leaked any classified information only fueling arguments that something is very wrong with this CIA picture, the White House finally weighing in on the flap today, sort of.  Short-timer Scott McClellan, confronted with the question of how it is that the CIA was able to get to the bottom of the black sites leak case so quickly, when almost three years after Valerie Plame‘s name was leaked, it still has not uncovered who (INAUDIBLE).

I‘m guessing here that the outgoing press secretary still has a couple of references to the war on terror left in his playbook.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY:  The leaking of classified information is a very serious matter, and the unauthorized disclosure of classified information can severely harm our national security.

We have talked previously about the terrorist surveillance program and how that unauthorized disclosure of that program has shown the enemy our playbook.

We are engaged in a difficult and long war against a bunch of ideological extremists who want to do everything they can to stop the advance of freedom in this world, and  want to harm innocent Americans and innocent people in the civilized world.

And that‘s why it‘s important that we not show them our playbook, so the leaking of classified information is a matter that the president takes very seriously.

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OLBERMANN:  And we‘ll show those communists—terrorists.

Time now to call in Larry Johnson, former CIA officer, former deputy director of the State Department‘s author—Office of Counterterrorism.

Larry, welcome back.

LARRY JOHNSON, FORMER CIA OFFICER:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Did the case against Mary McCarthy smell at all fishy to you even before her denial that she was the source of the leak to “The Washington Post”?

JOHNSON:  Absolutely.  I was one of the first ones out of the box saying that, for several reasons.

If you look at Dana Priest‘s article, there were multiple sources, many who had ties to the counterterrorism center, that were not identified by name or even very many particulars.  But it was clear that wasn‘t Mary‘s background.

I used to work for Mary back in 1998-‘89, and she moved on up into the senior ranks of management, where she was handling—she was at the National Security Council, National Warning Office, other things.  So she wouldn‘t have had any of the operational details that were reflected in Dana Priest‘s article.

OLBERMANN:  You knew her.  Are you sticking up for her because she‘s a friend, a former colleague with whom you enjoyed working?  What?

JOHNSON:  No.  Actually, I left the agency because I didn‘t like her management style.  But that had to do with some other issues unrelated to her integrity as an analyst.  I‘ve always found that she had a lot of integrity as an analyst, particularly with the testimony of people like Rand Beers and John Helgerson (ph), who I know.

When they vouch for Mary as a—as someone who was a worker who could be trusted, that says a lot, because these men are not partisans, even though the tendency in Washington now is, anybody that who speaks up to defend anyone who says something critical about Bush is suddenly akin to a terrorist sympathizer.

OLBERMANN:  So if she was an ideal candidate to be trusted, what do you think‘s going on?  I mean, do you believe that someone might be framing her?  Is she a scapegoat or (INAUDIBLE)--

JOHNSON:  No, she‘s, I—

OLBERMANN:  ... did—if she had these connections nefariously to Dana Priest, might we better call her a sacrifice, a sacrificial lamb?

JOHNSON:  No.  What‘s going on here, Keith, is, this is the White House effort to intimidate the press.  Porter Goss has politicized the CIA now.  There‘s no doubt.  Several years ago, you had most of the people in the Public Affairs Office, they were intelligence professionals.  What you have there today are (INAUDIBLE), with the exception of one individual, most of the people up there now are political hacks, folks who cut their teeth up on Capitol Hill playing partisan politics.

And the last thing we need to have is our intelligence agency politicized.  And yet what‘s going on here is, anyone that speaks out critical of the Bush White House, when you have Paul Pillar, for example, who came out and said the White House was wrong in trying to link Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden, what did the White House do?  They put the word out through their operatives, they tried to smear Paul Pillar.

Mary McCarthy, I think, is the latest victim of this.  And they tried to make an example of her.  And one thing I can say about Mary, we may have had our disagreements, but she‘s tough, and she has integrity.

OLBERMANN:  The subject of authorized versus unauthorized, this has become the black and white of the 21st century.  Whoever the source of the “Washington Post” report was, is the worst transgression, in your eyes, leaking the existence of repurposed Soviet-era gulags into CIA prisons in Eastern Europe, or blowing the cover of a covert op like Valerie Plame Wilson?

JOHNSON:  No intelligence capabilities were destroyed by the leak of the secret prisons.  In fact, that came from multiple sources within the intelligence community who were alarmed that the United States was starting to engage in the very practices we used to condemn the Soviets for.

Whereas in the case of Valerie Wilson, not only was her cover destroyed, but an undercover company was destroyed.  Intelligence assets that were involved with trying to determine, detect, and protect America against weapons of mass destruction, they were destroyed in that leak.

That was a case where the Bush White House participated in smearing and attacking innocent Americans.  That‘s a far different thing, and I think far more heinous, than someone who tries to blow the whistle, or a group of somebodies, who blow the whistle on administration practices which take us down the road toward something that looks a lot like what we had when the Soviets were running gulags.

OLBERMANN:  Former CIA officer Larry Johnson, former colleague with Mary McCarthy, not necessarily former friend.  Many thanks for your time and your insights.

JOHNSON:  Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The repercussions of Ms. McCarthy‘s dismissal extending far beyond Ms. McCarthy herself.  It has been suggested publicly that the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who broke the CIA prison story should be sent to jail for doing so, a new front in the ongoing war against the media.

For more on that angle of this story, time now to call in Greg Mitchell, editor of the trade magazine “Editor and Publisher.”

Greg, thanks for joining us again.

GREG MITCHELL, EDITOR, “EDITOR AND PUBLISHER”:  Hi, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  I asked this question a couple times last week.  Is it coincidental, in your opinion, that in 10 days, these four events occurred in succession.  Dana Priest wins the Pulitzer.  Bill Bennett says she and others, reporters who broke stories like this, deserves jail time.  CIA claims it‘s caught whoever leaked to Dana Priest in the first place.  And that story leaks out.

MITCHELL:  Well, Dana Priest was the favorite for the Pulitzer.  It was no surprise that she would win.  So conceivably they could have been planning this in advance.  It wouldn‘t surprise me.  It is awfully suspicious that it would happen in that order.  Certainly she was one of the top journalists in the country, and her series was expected to win.

OLBERMANN:  Did news organizations in the last part of this sequence, did they largely get tripped up by the leak of Mary McCarthy‘s name?  Why is there an assessment here?  Is there self-reflection?  Is there introspection about why there was a drag time of nearly 72 hours before anybody got her denial or basically even allowed for the possibility that she had not confessed?  I mean, did the media not collectively screw this story up?

MITCHELL:  It was a very bad performance.  If they didn‘t out and out say that she was the leaker, and she had done—or had confessed to these nefarious deeds, they certainly suggested it in trying to connect the dots.  And what it did was, it allowed the long weekend into Monday for conservative commentators and supporters of the Bush administration to paint her as a traitor, to say that she was obviously guilty, and, of course, also link her to the Dana Priest article directly, where common sense would tell you that—or even a reading of Dana Priest‘s article that she had dozens of sources.

And so I think it was a poor performance by the press.

The other question I think that has to be raised is, why didn‘t the CIA come out and say more?  Why didn‘t they—why did they imply or suggest that she had definitely been the source for Dana Priest‘s article?

So there‘s a lot of introspection that should be going on right now.

OLBERMANN:  Well, it was Friday night.  The agency now closes for the weekend, as we know.  Is—give me your read on this from your perspective in dealing with these folks around the country and the papers and other elements of the, of the industry.  Is the news industry afraid for investigative reporting now, or has not this kind of attempt to virtually criminalize it always backfired on everybody who‘s tried this throughout American history?

MITCHELL:  Well, it‘s often backfired.  And I‘d be very careful, if I was the Bush administration, or Porter Goss, in this case, because actually the press has been—well, they‘re supposed to be watchdogs.  They have often given the administration a pass and had been rather sleepy.

But I think what they‘re doing is maybe awakening the watchdog, or kicking the watchdog.  And when the watchdog gets kicked, it often becomes an attack dog.  And I think that we‘re seeing this now, where the media, or large portions of it, are banding together in a defensive way, and saying OK, we, we‘re going to fight back if need be.

OLBERMANN:  A last issue here.  As we speak, all the Washington tea leaves, Web sites, and news organizes and blogs and whatnot are suggesting that the White House is about is to appoint a new press secretary, semi-anchor, semi-opinion guy, Tony Snow from Fox News.  Is he any more qualified or any more unqualified, perhaps, than anybody else, or doesn‘t it matter anymore?

MITCHELL:  Well, I presume you didn‘t turn it down first yourself.

OLBERMANN:  They‘re not asking me, you can be sure of that.

MITCHELL:  But, yes, I‘d be surprised if he takes it, because—and maybe you could reflect on this yourself.  You know, it‘s difficult to, you know, be the pundit, be the opinion person, and it‘s a lot different having to face reporters who are peppering you with difficult, sometimes insulting questions.  It‘s difficult to have 30 different pieces of policy or instructions or talking points to keep in your head at one time, instead of two or three subjects that maybe you‘re comfortable with.

It‘s a very difficult situation, and I‘d be surprised if he left the comfort of pundit—of the pundit chair for the hot seat of the—whoever‘s going to follow Scott McClellan.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, people like to be on TV, though.

Greg Mitchell of “Editor and Publisher,” great thanks for your perspective.

MITCHELL:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  And as to the forecast for Snow at the White House, in the words of one Washington wag about the press secretary heir apparent, “The administration appears to have vetted him as well as it did Bernie Keric.  Stand by to see these quotes thrown back in his face from his online columns.”

March 17, 2006, Mr. Bush, quote, “lost control of the federal budget,” Tony Snow.

September 30, 2005, “No president has looked this impotent this long,” Tony Snow.

August 25, 2000, “The English language has become a minefield for the man, whose malaprops make him the political heir not of Ronald Reagan but Norm Crosby.  At one point last week, he stunned a friendly audience by barking out absurd and inappropriate words like a soul tortured with Tourette‘s,” Tony Snow.

And November 11, 2005, “The newly passive George Bush has become something of an embarrassment,” Tony Snow.

Ahh-ha.  Anybody know what Michael Brown is doing?

Maybe he‘s working on getting the price of gas down, the president unveiling a three-point plan to do that.  It will add 15,000 barrels a day to the supply, making the supply 1,015,000 barrels a day.  Can you say drop in the bucket?

And maybe the airlines are right.  On a short flight, you don‘t need a meal, you don‘t need a pillow.  You don‘t need a seat?  No, I‘m not kidding.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

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OLBERMANN:  The symbolism was inescapable.  The president gives a speech about his plan to corral uncontrollable gas prices, then rides away in a 14-vehicle motorcade.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, revoke taxes breaks for energy companies, promote greater fuel efficiency, and stop topping off the strategic reserve.

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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  One immediate (INAUDIBLE) way we can signal to people we‘re serious about increasing supply is to stop making purchases or deposits to the strategic petroleum reserve for a short period of time.  Directed the Department of Energy to defer filling the reserve this summer.  Our strategic reserve is sufficiently large enough to guard against any major supply disruption over the next few months, so by deferring deposits until the fall, we‘ll leave a little more oil on the market.  Every little bit helps.

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OLBERMANN:  That little bit is about 25,000 barrels a day.  The country imports about 10 million barrels a day.  The strategic reserve is at about 687 million barrels right at the moment.

And when then-candidate Bush criticized President Clinton for releasing about 5 percent of the reserve into the market to force prices down in 2000, that amounted to about 34 million barrels of oil.  So you can accuse Mr. Bush of not doing very much about this, but you can‘t really accuse him of doing a political about-face.

So about the not-very-much thing, I‘m joined now by Rick Klein, Washington correspondent of “The Boston Globe.”

Thank you for your time, sir.

RICK KLEIN, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, “THE BOSTON GLOBE”:  My pleasure, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Is this much ado about nothing?  There‘s this quote today from the vice president of risk management at Alaron Trading Corporation, a guy named Phil Flynn, who said, “It won‘t make much difference because the reserve is almost full.  It was a brilliant political move.”  Is Mr. Flynn correct about this?

KLEIN:  Well, I think the key word in the president‘s statement in the clip that you just showed was symbol.  This is really a symbolic move.  It isn‘t really going to do much about prices, it isn‘t going to do much about the supply and demand of oil in the United States or elsewhere.

What it is, is, is signaling a bit of a shift from the president, that he tends to get serious about this issue of high gas prices.  And it had some impact on the long-term markets today.  I don‘t think, though, people are going to see any kind of impact (INAUDIBLE) when they go to fill up their Jeeps.

OLBERMANN:  More politically complex, more pragmatic, less symbolic, this idea of Mr. Bush asking Congress to take away tax breaks from the oil companies that he was behind not more than a year ago.  Should we take that on face value?  Is it really going to happen?  If it does, couldn‘t the oil companies actually use it as a reason to increase prices, not decrease them?

KLEIN:  Well, they really haven‘t needed a reason so far.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, that‘s true.

KLEIN:  They can increase them for, even if they, even if, if there is a precipitous drop in demand.  But I think, I, I think you‘re right.  There really isn‘t a realistic chance of this happening.  It‘s good political showmanship, and there‘ll be a lot of sounding off about this.  I wouldn‘t be surprised if some Republican congressmen start talking about it too.

But there is so much work that went into that energy bill last year.  It‘s a product of years of intense lobbying, and a lot of money was spent by the oil companies to get these tax breaks.  You‘re going to have to pry it out of their fingers now.

OLBERMANN:  So is the overall picture, other than a little political frosting on the cake here, as we saw in these two parts of it?  Is this at bottom a no-win for the president, no matter how he turns?

KLEIN:  Well, I think he‘s in a real difficult situation.  But I think we saw today already some Republicans beginning to turn the table on Democrats.  And they‘re saying, Well, the real problem here is that Democrats have insisted on so much regulation, they‘ve made it so difficult to drill for oil, that that‘s what the reason that prices are high.

It‘s a bit of a stretch, especially because the Republicans are the ones in control right now.  But it‘s certainly an argument they‘re going to make.  And I think we‘ll begin—we‘ll see a bit more of that in the coming days, especially if prices remain as high or even get higher in the summer months.

OLBERMANN:  One element to this, though, struck me as a little sour, this premise that the president‘s getting pounded for doing an about-face about releasing the strategic reserve.  He accused Mr. Clinton and Mr. Gore of playing politics with it in 2000.  If anything, he‘s not playing politics with it now.  Is that correct?  And would he be better advised to be playing politics?  Should he (INAUDIBLE) release some of the reserve?

KLEIN:  Well, there‘s certainly an argument for that.  But I think, you know, particularly with the situation right now with Iran being as touchy as it is, as well as some instabilities in Nigeria and Venezuela, means that we really do have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

But you‘re right, he is not doing an about-face here.  What he‘s doing is emphasizing some different aspects of policy.  It is, though, a bit of a shift, certainly rhetorically speaking, for him to go after these oil companies that he‘s been very close to over the years.  He‘s an—he was an oil man.  Dick Cheney was an oil man.  For him to go after them the way he did today was much—very much a shift in tone, if nothing else.

OLBERMANN:  Well, they can always buy some bandages with the money. 

Rick Klein of “The Boston Globe.”  Great thanks.

KLEIN:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Also today, previously on “The Sopranos,” trouble at Artie Bucco‘s restaurant.  No, they didn‘t just take the restaurant roof away from the place.  This has another but equally stupid explanation.

And dinner is served, boys.  Why this commercial did not work, but one using a guy named Ty to sell a weed whacker did.

Details ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  After George Clooney made a movie called “Good Night and Good Luck,” it probably no longer puzzled nobody why I ended the newscast each night by saying that.  We‘re approaching the centennial.  Edward R.  Murrow was born April 25, 1908.  That‘s not entirely correct, of course.  He wasn‘t born Edward R. Murrow.  His given first name was Egbert, meaning he merits tribute not just in the journalistic segments of this news hour, but also in this, the goofy segment.

Hey, Egbert, let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Amsterdam, where the question that must have haunted hash bar patrons for ages there, is about to be answered.  Which is faster, an airplane, or a guy on a bike?  Wait, wait, wait, dude, I know exactly what you‘re going to say.  They‘re standing still.  It‘s time that‘s faster.

The Dutch Tourism Bureau set out to find out the answer once and for all, pitting world cycling (INAUDIBLE) champion Theo Boss (ph) and two others against a single-engine Piper in a 600-meter race, and the plane won, by a lot.  The bitter cyclists finished 15 seconds behind, and accused the airplane of using performance-enhancing steroids.

To Brussels, where a fantastic new idea, banquet dining 150 feet in the air.  It‘s like “Fear Factor,” only with better food.  Twenty-two Belgian chefs enjoying this meal while dangling from a crane.  It‘s part of a campaign to market this type of event worldwide.  Company says it could serve this meal anywhere.  All you need is a construction crane and a dining room table with six-point race car harnesses on the seats.  Just, for God‘s sakes, don‘t drop a fork.  You might kill somebody.

Finally to Zurich in Switzerland, where the people have gathered at the annual spring festival to celebrate the end of another long winter.  And what better way to do that than to build a giant happy snowman named Pelgue and blow the crap out of him.  It‘s an ancient pagan ritual carried out each April, although something tells me in ancient times, there may have been a real guy named Pelgue up there.  This one, though, is merely stuffed with fireworks for an extry-spectacular finish.

And when Pelgue‘s head explodes, blowed him up real good, spring officially begins, as does a lifetime of therapy for all the kids in attendance.

Which, we now understand, might have helped this gal, and in turn, the people she did commercials for.  Why Anna Nicole Smith is not as good a salesperson as is a guy named Ty.

And red-hot superstardom on the Internets.  If you‘re acting foolish and a camera is rolling, chances are you‘ll get caught in a national fever called viral video.

Those stories ahead.

But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, Veysel Dalci, head of the local branch of Turkey‘s Justice and Development Party, celebrating the foundering—founding, rather, of the modern Turkish state by Kamal Ataturk.  Mr. Dalci has been charged with insulting Ataturk‘s memory because as he laid a wreath at the statue of Ataturk, he was chewing gum.

Number two, Joseph Landenderfer of Dunedin, Florida, arrested, because his son was spending too much time playing games on their computer, and not enough time doing the laundry.  Well, his reaction to that: He shot the computer.  They arrested him for attempted murder, though, because his son was standing near the computer.

And number one, Skylar, the golden poodle.  She smelled cold pizza in the home of her owner, Fred Hanes (ph), of Napierville, Illinois.  She reached up and got it, and nearly burned the house down.  See, the gold—the cold pizza was atop the stove.  Skylar, in reaching, apparently turned on a burner.  The burner ignited the box the pizza was in.  The kitchen went up in flames.  That makes the total cost of your pizza, Mr. Hanes, $50,000.

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OLBERMANN:  Coincidence, the word celebrity begins with the syllable sell? That there is news of a survey by a research firm called NPD that asked more than 3,000 consumers, which famous spokespeople actually helped sell the product they endorsed and which didn‘t?  George Foreman, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, all ranking high—our third story in the COUNTDOWN.  You‘ll probably not be able to guess who ranked highest or why?  You may be surprised which celebrities actually seemed to hurt the products they were endorsing.  Namely, Donald trump, which would explain why his ad for the military did (INAUDIBLE) on recruiting levels.  Brittany Spears, enough said perhaps, does Pepsi Twist even exist anymore? 

Kate Moss proving that coke heads do not help to sell cell phones, except maybe the dealers.  Anna Nicole Smith, Trim Spa will make you thin and crazy.  And Paris Hilton, whose ad for Carl‘s Junior Hamburgers is more about the bootie than the beef.  Hungry anybody?

Miss? Miss?  There‘s soap in my hamburger.  Apologies if anybody was actually trying to eat a hamburger during that.  Anyway, the celeb with the highest celebrity purchased influence score was Ty Pennington.  Ty Pennington, not Ty Cobb, not the woman from “Price Is Right.”  Ty Pennington, the home improvement type guy from shows like “Trading Spaces” and “Extreme Makeover Home Edition.”  To try to sort all this out I‘m joined by advertising expert Jerry Della Femina, CEO and Chairman of Della Femina Rothschild Jerry & Partners.  Thanks for your time Jerry.  

JERRY DELLA FEMINA, ADVERTISING EXECUTIVE:  Hi.  Good to be here.

OLBERMANN:  So, cutting to the chase here, the idea isn‘t ooh, Paris Hilton helps name recognition for Carl‘s Junior but Paris Hilton is not a connoisseur of cheeseburgers?  You have to have celebrity and credibility specific to your product? 

FEMINA:  Paris Hilton can‘t sell anything.  I mean I used to have the Carl‘s Junior account and Carl was a very conservative man, he must be rolling around in the grave right now.  She can‘t sell hamburgers.  She might sell, she would be great for the Hilton Hotels. 

OLBERMANN:  For many reasons perhaps.  Does this also disprove that idea that sex automatically sells or does it suggest the people being questioned about why they buy something based on advertising wouldn‘t admit in a million years that they would have bought it based on Paris Hilton‘s thighs? 

FEMINA:  Well, first of all, most people—no one will ever admit that they are ever influenced by a celebrity.  They are, but they never—consumers always lie.  Paris really can‘t, I mean, she really can‘t sell anything, and it was not about hamburgers.   It was about Paris.   People who want hamburgers, want hamburgers, they don‘t want Paris.  Or Paris on the side.

OLBERMANN:  The idea of a person‘s past that night turn consumers against them.   Martha Stewart spent five months in jail, but rated very highly in certain parts of this survey.  Is there an explanation for that that‘s not too obvious? 

FEMINA:  Well, the biggest problem out there is—and I‘ve tried to pitch a number of celebrities to clients, it‘s the Kobe Bryant curse.  The Kobe Bryant curse is at every meeting the client will turn and say, I mean, he or she is not going to turn into another Kobe Bryant? There‘s no answer to that.  Kobe Bryant has probably cost more celebrities millions and millions of dollars in testimonials because of the Kobe Bryant curse. 

OLBERMANN:  Just over the weekend I was looking at an old “ESPN” tape from 1996 of commercials we did for “ESPN” and they were instructing rookie athletes how to swear, and the two innocent naive athletes were Keyshawn Johnson and Kobe Bryant, that‘s how much times have changed.  But there‘s one other question here, sometimes it might be a celebrity spot and it doesn‘t work but it ain‘t the celebrity‘s fault.

I want to show you an example from 1997 for Boston Market.  The infamous “Eat Something” campaign.   This was to sell $5 lunches and it worked like a charm, it even got honors from a group fighting bulimia and anorexia.  But nobody at the agency or the company had thought, “Gee whiz, what if the people who are buying our $16 dinners see this and they say, I‘d rather have the $5 lunch there?”  Which is apparently what happened every time my commercial ran because a year after I did this they were $800 million in debt.  So when the ad fails, you can‘t always blame the pitch man, can you? 

FEMINA:  Well I was going to say, you would make a terrific celebrity spokesperson.  You know, it‘s the voice, the very sincere eyes.   I mean, I would hire you tomorrow.   I would find a product for you.  Actually, Mobile Gasoline, that‘s your first endorsement, I can see it.  You‘ll be great. 

OLBERMANN:  Mobile gasoline?

FEMINA:  Absolutely.  Go out there and tell them why they‘re spending that money son. 

OLBERMANN:  We‘d like your $4 a gallon please, we‘d like you to smile, we‘ll even clean your windshield for you.  

FEMINA:  Beautiful copy, that‘s great. 

OLBERMANN:  I Just ad-libbed that, I‘m a natural I guess. 

FEMINA:  You‘re a natural.

OLBERMANN:  Advertising legend Jerry Dell Femina, thank you kindly for joining us.

FEMINA:  Good to be here.

OLBERMANN:  From celebs that flop to ordinary people who don‘t, how are viral video and the instant celebrity or infamy can thrust on the unsuspecting.  Speaking of unsuspecting, Charlie Sheen blind-sided by allegations leveled at him by his wife Denise Richards, now blind-sided by who she‘s allegedly been seeing, even though the guy lived next door.  That‘s next with your next host of COUNTDOWN as I go to do gasoline commercials.

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OLBERMANN:  When I said I‘d be willing to fly economy, I did not say I‘d be willing to stand.  The latest innovation from the airlines that could turn regular coach into the new first class.  All that and more ahead on COUNTDOWN.

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OLBERMANN:  Andy Warhol is often incompletely quoted as saying that in the future everybody will be famous for 15 minutes.  He meant of course that you‘d be famous for 15 minutes and only 15 minutes.  Which means the Numa Numa guy owes us each about an hour and a half of our lives back.  Our number two story in the COUNTDOWN, the internet gave life to the face value part of Warhol‘s forecast, but until somebody starts editing it, it will do nothing about that context.  Thus are the Numa Numa guy and the Star Wars Kid and the Silvio Berlusconi look alike, all famous to some degree, great or small and forever.  It‘s called viral video, and apparently there‘s neither a cure nor a treatment.  COUNTDOWN‘s senior internet pneumonia and the boogie woogie flu correspondent, Monica Novotny reports now on the business end of this equation, Monica good evening? 

MONICA NOVOTNY, MSNBC INTERNET CORRESPONDENT:  Keith good evening.  Well, there is now an easy way to find your 15 minutes, all you need is a video camera, an internet connection and an unusual or ridiculous skill, the ability to capture it on tape, upload it and wait for thousands to find it and pass it along to all their friends.  Then you too can become an internet celebrity that is until the next one comes along in oh, about three seconds.

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NOVOTNY:  The clip so good it was contagious.  A video emailed round the world and back helping kick off the viral video craze.  These amateur clips made by us, for us, of questionable quality, lasting just minutes or even seconds.  Easy to watch online then pass along to anyone who has an email address. 

MOLLY WOOD, CNET:  Viral videos sort of tap into something that we can all relate to, because they‘re people who look like us and it‘s a video that you might make.  

NOVOTNY:  And they become instant internet stars. 

JULIE SUPAN, YOUTUBE.COM:  It‘s amazing to see how much talent there is outside of Hollywood. 

NOVOTNY:  The center of the viral universe, utube.com.  This free video sharing site launched just last December now with 6 million viewers watching 40 million clips each day.   And in this world, the weirder, the better.   There‘s the guy who dances.   The one who juggles.  More recently, a “Brokeback Mountain” spoof.  Brokeback to the future.    

There are girls too like our COUNTDOWN favorites, from that musical group, “Morning News to Me”—but pornography not allowed.  Viewers rule the links choosing animals.  And who doesn‘t love babies?

But once it‘s online, you‘re out of control.   That Star Wars Kid, Ghyslain Raza, recently settled out of court after suing classmates who posted the clip without his knowledge.   His online successor, the Numa Numa guy, then 19-year-old Gary Brolsma, a New Jersey man who loves to lip-synch.  

Spawning countless copycats like Matty Boy, Bailey, and Andy.  But are shared videos old news already? Corporate America is catching on hoping to cash in.   This viral ad by Nike featuring soccer star Ronald Dino has seen 3 ½ million hits.  Chevy Tahoe recently sponsoring a contest for people to make their own Tahoe ad online, though much of what they got looked like this.  

An unfriendly welcome to the world of viral video.   Where outbreaks will surprise you. 

SUPAN:  Maybe you‘ll be inspired to make your own and you could be the next sort of internet rock star. 

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NOVOTNY:  Now the youtube Web site is currently uploading 25,000 new videos every 24 hours.  But, get it while you can because while executives there say the service will continue to be free, the advertisers in a form yet to be determined, are on their way.  And we should mention there‘s more than just youtube out there, Google has a video Web site, lot of sites out there, but they are the largest. 

OLBERMANN:  But the advertisers are like jaws.  They‘ll get to this eventually.  Which brings the question of the copyright rules that are already in here.  It‘s not just homemade videos, right, it‘s copyrighted material, it‘s TV clips, so what about that? 

NOVOTNY:  Well they‘re protected by the digital millennium copyright act, which means that if someone notifies them and says hey, you‘ve got a clip up there that‘s violating our copyright, as long as they take it down right away, which so far they‘ve been doing, they are safe.  Because anyone could upload their favorite movie clip or commercial or whatever, so.  

OLBERMANN:  I mean if I uploaded like 35 clips from “Family Guy,” they‘d come and get me eventually though.  

NOVOTNY:  They wouldn‘t even come and talk to you, they‘d just remove them.  

OLBERMANN:  Just pull it.  That‘s fair enough.  Well let me go do that now.

COUNTDOWN‘S Monica Novotny or as we like to call her around here, Internet correspondent Monica Novotny, many thanks.  

NOVOTNY:  Thanks. 

OLBERMANN:  What Charlie Sheen found on the Internet has already been described in some very unpleasant court filings by his estranged wife Denise Richards.  What he did not find, what was next door, is our segue into our world of celebrity and entertainment news “Keeping Tabs.”  Several tabloid sources reporting that the 35-year-old actress has been canoodling with the 46 year old rocker Richie Sambora.   Punch line, the Sheens and the Samboras live next door to one another in a gated compound in Westlake, California outside LA.  Sambora himself was recently shocked to discover that his wife, actress Heather Locklear, filed for divorce and told him about it through a press release.  Sambora and Richards were photographed kissing at a nearby restaurant just the day after Ms. Richards demanded a restraining order against Mr. Sheen.  Can I get a diagram of this story? 

And she was known as the most downloaded woman on the Internet.  Of course it was about the time Windows 98 came out.  But now Cindy Margolis is jumping from the digital realm to the glossy pages of “Playboy Magazine.”  Agreeing to pose nude there for the first time, like we haven‘t seen enough skin in this show.  What‘s the point, you ask? I don‘t know.   Maybe you‘ll see a side of her you‘ve never seen before, although the odds against that are 42 to one.   The former “Price Is Right” model and mother of three says she agreed to pose for the magazine when they called on her 40th birthday, she said it was empowering.  Let‘s face it, in this day and age, its tough for the most downloaded woman on the internet to compete with the likes of this.

Thank God for the Internet.  You‘ll have plenty of time to check that out while you stand on your next flight.  You heard me.  The friendly skies consider going all Hannibal Lector on us.  That‘s ahead but first on the “Countdown‘s” list, the latest list of nominees for worst person in the world.  Bronze going to a company in Tibet now marketing a cigarette that it says does not stain teeth, replaces all the vitamins that smoking sucks out of you and it‘s called Vitacig.  Roger Ouellette says he‘s a non-smoker but he invented these for his wife Gisele who has smoked since she was 14.  She says, “I am happy because I don‘t have to quit any more.”  Gisele, your husband is trying to kill you.

The runner up, Amy Duck Worth, arrested on charges of trying to sneak cocaine in to her husband in the jail in Huntington, Indiana inside a pair of Bibles.  Nice touch.  

But the winner, psychic Joe Power, appearing on a British pay-per-view televised s’ance designed to contact John Lennon.  His mike suddenly went dead and a voice from beyond the grave could be heard, it was John Lennon saying, peace, the message is peace.  Wow.  You got John Lennon to say peace? Who‘d have ever thought he‘d have said peace! Of all the words, that‘s going way out on a limb!  Joe Power, unimaginative psychic.  Today‘s worst person in the world!

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Science rarely does things on spec.  They did not invent the atomic bomb with the idea of saying let‘s just build one, it‘ll look nice on the mantle piece.  Gosh, we‘ll never actually blow it up.  They did not get into cloning just to see if the theory tested out well.  Reproduce animals and humans like Xerox copies, we never thought of that, we just won a cool prize.  Our number one story on the COUNTDOWN, the manufacturer denies it but the “New York Times” reported that Airbus, the people who as a humorist once noted, managed to combine the worst two forms of travel in the world, the airplane and the bus.  The “Times” reports that Airbus is working on a feature for a new aircraft that would allow for standing room.  Standing room on a plane.

Standees, the plane goes up at a 30 degree angle you‘re standing up.  It lands and goes bumpity, bumpity, you‘re standing up.  Like on the number 7 train, or the cable cars in San Francisco.  It depend on it, if they are working on it, someday they‘ll introduce it.  The newspaper report that Airbus has been offering a standing room only option in the new planes it‘s building for some airlines in Asia, not that any of them have agreed to it yet.   Airbus saying in a statement after the story came out that, “Airbus simply does not offer a standing room option to our customers on our aircraft.” 

But in a subsequent email, Airbus admitted the idea was studied and discarded in 2003.   “No one wanted it, it‘s not certified and wouldn‘t be comfortable, that‘s what R&D is all about.”  R&D there refers to research and development, not research and denial.  But according to the “Times” airline experts have seen this proposal.  In a special section of the plane, passengers would be strapped against a padded backboard with a harness.  The section‘s called cargo. 

A physics professor who has researched airline seat comfort said, “To call it a seat would be misleading.”  Like we need a physics professor to tell us that.  The proposal was reportedly offered for short flights like those between the various islands in Japan.  But ominously, there appears to be no law on the books that would bar standing room seats on American carriers.

Paul Mooney is not just one of the funniest people alive, in addition to performing he‘s written for “Saturday Night Live,” and Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle, but more pertinently here, as a standup comedian, he flies a lot.  Paul thanks for coming back on the newscast.  

PAUL MOONEY, SOCIAL COMMENTATOR:  Well, I just got off the new standup plane, so --  

OLBERMANN:  You had a bumpy ride. 

MOONEY:  No, that‘s --  they‘re full of hot air.  That can‘t happen in America, you can‘t strap people down in an airplane. 

OLBERMANN:  You fly, what, like 30 times a month I mean or 30 times a year at least. 

MOONEY:  No, no, I fly at least six, eight times a month, I fly back and forth from New York and to other places.   That just wouldn‘t work.  Who are they going to have flying the plane, Faye Dunaway, Joan Crawford?  Because it sounds like something out of a Joan Crawford movie, out of “Mommy Dearest.” When the little girl was cleaning up and the little boy got up, the one that was sleep walking.  Strap yourself in.  She‘ll kill me.  That‘s not going to happen.  That‘s a joke.  Have you been on an airplane in America?

OLBERMANN:  Yes.  

MOONEY:  What happens with turbulence?  Where do they put these people, outside? You can‘t even get the people that are sitting down.  They freak out.  I don‘t know if you‘ve been on a plane, they scream, they carry on, you know. 

OLBERMANN:  But this idea of strapping people down worked in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo‘s Nest.”  Why couldn‘t some commercial carriers adopt it?

MOONEY:  It could hardly work on a bus.  I mean on a cable car, I mean we‘ve had it or you‘ve been on a bus and it‘s hard, you can‘t do that on an airplane.  When I first heard that I started laughing, it had to be a joke, it can‘t be real.  

OLBERMANN:  But Paul, if you said to somebody, in this country, you know this, if you go and fly as often as you say you do, you know that half the people out there have never been out of their own homes before, and the amount of money that is spent is just unbelievable on flights.   If you said to somebody its $219 for a seat, but if you‘re willing to stand, it‘s 39.95.  You don‘t think anybody would go for that? 

MOONEY:  Not anybody in their right mind.  I don‘t think they‘d go for that for free.  An airplane is a very serious business.   Before 9/11, the airport was cool.   It may have happened then, before 9/11.  But the airport‘s not a fun place.  I don‘t know if you‘ve been there.  But you have to take your shoes off and darn near be from Chippendales, you almost get naked to go through the airport.  And you have people there asking for your passport who can‘t even say passport.   Can I see your passport?  No, can I see your green card and it‘s insane.  The airport isn‘t the same place, I don‘t know if you‘ve been there lately.  I went there the other day. 

OLBERMANN:  About three weeks ago, yeah.

MOONEY:  Yeah I went there and they told me, they said we‘re on orange alert.  I said good, I‘m on white alert and I‘m not getting off it.  It‘s a very strange place, the airport.  I don‘t know if you‘ve—it‘s like being in the third world.  It‘s not like it used to be. 

OLBERMANN:  When you fly, given how tightly they jam people in nowadays, do you think they have other things planned for us?  I mean, you don‘t think this is realistic, don‘t you think they have something almost as bad that somebody‘s going to install in one of these planes, sooner rather than later? 

MOONEY:  No.  No, no.  Because of 9/11, I‘m serious.   They are very -

the planes are very safe and they‘re very aware, and they‘re trying to make sure that you‘re comfortable and that you‘re happy.  You know, I mean a lot of airplanes, I don‘t know if I can mention them, Jet Blue‘s the best I think.  Frontier copies Jet Blue, but it‘s the best.  I‘ve been flying it when it was Jet Who, when no one didn‘t even know what it was about. The other airlines it‘s like being on a stage coach.   I‘m always looking for the Indians. 

OLBERMANN:  And Jet Blue, but Jet Blue‘s the one that could broadcast their own plane with a troubled landing.  They get cable on their so you can watch yourself if you have a bad landing.  

MOONEY:  But it‘s great.  I love it that they won‘t let them—they go to Long Beach, they won‘t let them, in LA, you know LAX they won‘t come there.  But they were forced to go there.  Remember when they had the forced landing?

OLBERMANN:  Yep, exactly.

MOONEY:  Which was great, and it was great.  And I was somewhere where there was a lot of people of all races and all ages and they were pulling for those people, for that plane to land safe.  Because that was lucky, I mean that plane could have burn up, you know that?   

OLBERMANN:  Yes, absolutely. 

MOONEY:  And I knew it wasn‘t a black pilot, because you would have seen him running from the plane.

OLBERMANN:  Paul Mooney, always a pleasure, sir.  Thanks for your time.

MOONEY:  Hey, listen, anytime.  And I just want to make a comment about Martha on your commercials.

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, I‘m out of time, though, Paul.

MOONEY:  Oh, good.  OK.  No problem.  (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

OLBERMANN:  Wow.  You‘re really (inaudible). 

It‘s COUNTDOWN.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Keep your knees loose.  Our MSNBC coverage continues now with Joe Scarborough, just touching down in “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”  Joe, good evening.

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

END   

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