updated 5/19/2006 12:21:03 PM ET 2006-05-19T16:21:03

Guests: Sara Carter, Juan Hernandez, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Brad Blakeman, Tom O‘Neil, Nancy O‘Dell, Dawn Yanek, Sharon Waxman, James Robert Parish

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, Bush at the border, telling Mr. Fox, We will build this wall.  But will a wall reverse his crumbling ratings?

Then: In from the cold and into the fire.  The president‘s CIA pick gets roasted on the Hill.  Big Brother may be watching us, but now they‘re being watched by Congress.

And “American Idol” history is made with the closest vote yet. 

Elliott gets the boot, and “Idol” producers apparently answer charges that the voting is fixed.

Plus, the worst movies ever, from “Heaven‘s Gate” to “Ishtar” to “The Da Vinci Code”?  Well, we‘ll tell you what critics are saying.

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  No passport required, only common sense allowed.

We‘re going to have those stories later on, but first up tonight, Bush at the border, the president telling reporters he wanted to show the immigration problem instead of just talking about it.  You know, doing something other than talking about illegal immigration is probably a good plan for the president, since the more he talks about immigration, the lower his numbers sink on immigration.

Mr. Bush‘s nationwide address this week was scorned by many conservatives and observers as a half-hearted attempt to placate his right-wing base.  But if that was his goal, the president failed miserably, this as “The New York Times” reports that private contractors are being hired to run border operations, with a high-ranking Homeland Security official riding a strange memo to companies competing for the border business.

Listen to what that memo says.  Quote, “This is an unusual invitation.  We‘re asking you to tell us how to come back and tell us how to do our business.”

Now, this comes from the Department of Homeland Security, a bureaucracy created by the federal government, and they take billions of federal tax dollars, we were told, to help protect our borders.  So what‘s next, subcontracting out security in war zones?  Oh, wait, that‘s been done.  Been there, done that.

You know, maybe the administration should hire a few good old Soviet generals.  I mean, after all, they sure knew how to build a hell of a wall in their days, and it did the trick.  It kept a hundred million or so Europeans in place for 40 years.

But you know, most Americans would consider it a victory if our government could secure the border for 40 days, forget about 40 years.  But that‘s not going to happen with half-hearted measures from a president who still refuses to take the bold action required to save America‘s growing immigration crisis.

Now, in an interview with NBC‘s David Gregory today, the president again defended his plan for a temporary worker program that some call amnesty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  You cannot secure the border, in my judgment, without a temporary worker plan because we got people coming here to work and doing jobs Americans aren‘t doing.  They‘re sneaking across the border.  It seems like if we‘re trying to enforce the border, it makes sense to let them come here on a temporary basis to do jobs Americans aren‘t doing, provided they can pass a criminal background check.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s bring in now Sara Carter.  She‘s an investigative reporter who covers the border story every day from the front lines.  So Sara, do Americans along the border believe that this president and this Congress are really doing what‘s required to secure that area?

SARA CARTER, “INLAND VALLEY DAILY BULLETIN”:  No.  Absolutely not.  I mean, the majority of people that I‘ve spoken to have told me that they‘re really concerned that the president‘s trying to play all the parties, enforce border security, a guest worker program with amnesty.  They‘re not really quite sure what he‘s doing.

And as far as the 6,000 National Guard troops—well, I know the Border Patrol has been crying out for help for a long time, but if the National Guard is going to be doing clerical work, well, then, that doesn‘t really—isn‘t really a comfort to the American people.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... along the border—and you, of course, cover this every day.  You‘ve written some amazing stories about what exactly goes on every day in that war zone—but the danger is not just illegal immigration, is it.  I mean, there‘s also a real battle being waged between our Border Patrol and Mexican drug cartels that are now coming up to our border and crossing into America.

CARTER:  That‘s absolutely true, Joe.  The biggest problem on the border is not so much illegal migrants crossing, illegal immigrants crossing for better jobs here in America.  But what we‘re dealing with is a growing syndicate of narcotics traffickers, organizations that have taken complete control of the southern border.  And the Mexican government does not have control of their southern border states.  And the problem is that they are confronting Border Patrol, our law enforcement officials, and they‘re getting more and more egregious about it every day.

This is something that we‘ve talking about for maybe more than a year now in our stories, and it‘s gotten worse.  I mean, the increase against Border Patrol agents is at 108 percent in violent attacks on Border Patrol agents, flaming (ph) rocks being thrown at them, their cars being hit, snipers trying to hit them from the southern side of the border.  And 90 percent of all the narcotics entering the United States are coming in through the southwest border.  So there is a real serious issue in Mexico with these narcotics traffickers, and there‘s a very serious national security issue here in the United States.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Sara, stay with us.

The president‘s proposal to deploy the National Guard is now apparently being followed up with his plan to have private corporations providing spy planes and security systems to stop illegal crossings.  Is the president militarizing the border?  Here to give us their insights on that issue, Juan Hernandez—he‘s a former adviser to Mexican president Vicente Fox—and MSNBC political analyst Monica Crowley.

Juan, let me start with you.  Do you believe that what George Bush is doing is militarizing the U.S.-Mexican border?

JUAN HERNANDEZ, FORMER ADVISER TO VICENTE FOX:  Well, first of all, let me please congratulate Sara.  It‘s great to hear her say that the undocumented are not the major problem, those coming from Mexico to the United States to work.  Thank you, Sara.  I totally agree with you.

You know, right now, we have in Congress an incredible debate going on even as we speak right now.  And what I‘m hearing—I‘m up here in Washington, I‘ve been able to speak to Democrats and Republicans, and what they‘re saying is that they‘re going to eat many of these pills, pass many of these pills that they don‘t like—it looks like we are going to have some walls, it looks like we are going to have some fences.  But at the end of the week next week, hopefully, we will have a legalization of the undocumented.

SCARBOROUGH:  So you‘re saying that you‘re willing to trade walls and fences for amnesty.

HERNANDEZ:  I‘m not saying that I am in favor of walls, I‘m in favor of—I mean, Reagan said—and we‘ve talked about this before on the show, but Reagan said, Let‘s bring down these walls, Mr. Gorbachev.  That‘s not the America that I believe in, but I hear a lot of people up here saying, Look, if we have to take that pill, let‘s take it, but let‘s not keep these undocumented...

SCARBOROUGH:  But why?  There‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... though, isn‘t there?  I mean, Gorbachev and the Soviets had walls to keep their people in.  We have to build walls to keep people out.

HERNANDEZ:  Well, my friend, I think that for 20 years, we‘ve been saying, Come, come, come, and now suddenly, we‘re trying to change our perspective.  You know, there are a whole lot of conservative people...

SCARBOROUGH:  Come legally?

HERNANDEZ:  No, let me—you know, I‘m a conservative.  I‘m known by my friends as being conservative, a religious person.  You know, Joel Ostein (ph), Robert Morris (ph), Pastor Jack Haford (ph) -- we‘re all coming out saying, Compassion, compassion, compassion ad we‘re trying to solve...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I mean, we can both be compassionate, Monica, can we not, but say when you come to America, come here legally.

MONICA CROWLEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Exactly right!  We seem to be glossing over the word illegal when we use the phrase illegal immigrant.  There legal paths to come to this country.  We‘re completely open to that.  We embrace you.  We want you here to work and enjoy the fruits of America, but we want you to come here legally.  And what really disturbs me...

HERNANDEZ:  No, Monica.  Forgive me for...

CROWLEY:  Go ahead.

HERNANDEZ:  Monica, people keep saying, Get in line, but there is no line, my friend.  People would love to come to this nation legally with papers, but where is the line to be able to get here?

SCARBOROUGH:  Juan, I‘ll tell you—you know what, Juan?  I‘ll tell you where the line is.  The line is with people from Turkey that come up to me in the streets in New York City when I‘m up there...

HERNANDEZ:  Yes, but that‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on a second!

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hold on, Juan.  I‘m not going to have this!  You know, I‘m trying to make a point that you know is legitimate, so you...

HERNANDEZ:  Let‘s see.  I want to hear it, my friend.  I want to hear it.

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Let me finish my point.

HERNANDEZ:  Please do.

SCARBOROUGH:  Wherever I go, whether I was in Congress or whether I have this TV show, whether I‘m in New York, Washington, Florida, wherever I am, I‘ve got people who have relatives overseas that have been trying to get their relatives over here for 10, 11 years, and they can‘t do it.

HERNANDEZ:  That‘s right.

SCARBOROUGH:  But they can‘t do it because they‘re trying to do it legally.  They‘re not sneaking them in here in the middle of the night.  And if they were to ask me what‘s the best way to get them in, I‘d probably say, Fly to Mexico and cross the border illegally because those people are jumping in line!  You can‘t deny that!

HERNANDEZ:  Can I say something...

CROWLEY:  Exactly, Joe!

(CROSSTALK)

HERNANDEZ:  ... wonderful people in Turkey...

CROWLEY:  Exactly!

HERNANDEZ:  ... also, we need to create the line.  I agree with you!

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, Monica, isn‘t there...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY:  Are you talking to me, Joe?  The line exists.  There are legal processes that in place.  If you want to come to the country, we‘re happy to have you, but we want you to do it the right way.

And Joe, as you pointed out, for us to grant any form of amnesty, which is what I think is being debated in the Congress and essentially what the president proposed this week, is—sends such an enormously bad signal to those who do want to do it the right way.

You know, and for the Mexican government to be complaining or threatening lawsuits that the United States of America wants now to get serious or semi-serious about actually enforcing its border is outrageous because why should the American people—why should the United States pay the price for failed policies in Mexico?

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you know, Monica, Vicente Fox apparently is angry, says he‘s concerned about militarizing the border.  Arizona Congressman J.D. Hayworth, who—a guy I came into Congress with, who‘s been traveling with the president today, issued this statement in response.  He said, quote, “The border has already been militarized by drug smugglers, human smugglers and Mexico‘s own military.  Fox‘s concerns are not only absurd but insulting, as well.”

SCARBOROUGH:  Juan, I‘d like you to respond to that, then we have to get back to Sara.  Go ahead.

HERNANDEZ:  I am not going to speak about Vicente Fox this week nor next week.  We can get to that topic later.  Let‘s congratulate George Bush for continuing pushing the legalization of the undocumented.

SCARBOROUGH:  Juan?  OK, so Juan supports the Bush plan.  I think he may be the only person that I‘ve met that does...

HERNANDEZ:  I vote in favor!

(LAUGHTER)

SCARBOROUGH:  Sara Carter...

HERNANDEZ:  And Sara does, too!

SCARBOROUGH:  Sara, respond...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... and what J.D. Hayworth says about militarizing this border?

CARTER:  (INAUDIBLE) Juan.  That‘s not what I was saying.  What I am saying is, is that Mexico needs to accept responsibility for what‘s been going on in Mexico.

HERNANDEZ:  I think you‘re right.

CROWLEY:  Right.  That‘s right.

CARTER:  Mexico has let the southern border get out of control to the point where in Nuevo Laredo, everybody is bought out by the narcotics traffickers.  And this is a very serious issue.  It‘s a national security issue, and Hayworth is right.  I mean, what we‘re looking at right now—what J.D. Hayworth said it that the border is controlled by both the Mexican military—and Juan, you know issues like this have arisen in the past, and they‘re arising in the future.  And they arise in the present.  Right now, we know that this is happening.  And we have no way of guarding our border and protecting our border.  And the people of Mexico are suffering for that, and they are coming to this country, searching for hope because they can‘t find it in their own nation!

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Sara, we‘re going to have to...

CARTER:  This is a serious issue!

SCARBOROUGH:  ... leave it there...

(CROSSTALK)

CARTER:  ... someone‘s willing to point that out!

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Sara, you‘ve just pointed that out.  And thank you for being with us, Sara Carter, Monica Crowley and Juan Hernandez, the author...

HERNANDEZ:  Let‘s make it clear...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... of “The New American Pioneers.”  And Juan goes off into the sunset talking.  He‘s very energized about this, and we‘ll have him back again soon to talk more about it.

But coming up next here in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY: Big Brother may be watching you, but today Congress stared back.  Does the president‘s latest pick move America one step closer towards a police state?

And last night, “American Idol” history was made, and the clock strikes 11:59 on the show this season.  As “Idol‘s” climax approaches, are Fox officials finally feeling the heat from angry fans?  That and much more straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  The president‘s pick for top spook at the CIA got a frightful reception on the Hill today, General Michael Hayden slammed on domestic spying, warrantless wiretaps and the reported tracking of Americans‘ phone records.  Will the spy chief go up in political flames, or will Congress once again yield to the president?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over):  The president has seen better days.  Engulfed by Republican scandals and sagging ratings, George W. Bush has become the butt of late night comics‘ jokes.

JAY LENO, HOST, “THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO”:  A new poll shows that Americans now believe that Bill Clinton is more honest than President Bush.  At least when Clinton screwed the nation, he did it one person at a time.

SCARBOROUGH:  But today‘s congressional hearings were no laughing matter as the president‘s pick for NSA‘s top gun faced withering opposition.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MI:  Would you say there are privacy concerns involved in this program?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CA:  What was your role in the initiation of the program at issue?

SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON:  Having evaluated your words, I now have a difficult time with your credibility.

SCARBOROUGH:  Quite a change from congressmen and senators who always gave the president what he wanted when it came to the war on terror.  But that all changed last week when news broke that Big Brother had begun spying on 200 million phone records.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Shame on us.

SCARBOROUGH:  For many Americans, it seems like a tale spun (ph) from the hit series “24.”  For others, it was one more example of a Bush White House trampling on Americans‘ privacy rights.

LENO:  I signed up for a new calling plan today, the NSA friends and family plan.  You know about this?  For 20 bucks a month, they listen to all my friends and all my family.

SCARBOROUGH:  Despite all the spy scandals and today‘s stonewalling by the general...

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, CIA DIRECTOR NOMINEE:  Senator, I‘m not privileged to talk about that.

Let me give you that answer in closed session.  I‘m just a little—just a slight discomfort.

SCARBOROUGH:  Chances are good that Congress will once again give the president his way, sending another signal to George Bush and his administration that when it involves the war on terror, Congress is more than willing to keep writing the president a blank check.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

To talk about the spy chief and his claim today that NSA surveillance is legal, let‘s bring in Katrina Vanden Heuvel.  She‘s editor of “The Nation” magazine.  And also, we have Brad Blakeman.  He‘s a former adviser to President Bush.

Katrina, will the president‘s pick bring Big Brother inside the CIA bureaucracy, or is he the right man for the job?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, “THE NATION”:  You know, it‘s not just General Hayden, Joe.  It‘s we have a lawless administration, an administration which has purposely misled the Congress and American public about the scope and character of this domestic illegal wiretapping program.  And Hayden, as recently as January, misled Congress, misled people.  What we‘re witnessing, Joe, is the steady erosion of our rights and privacy.  We can be free and safe within the law which exists.  Instead, we have an unconscionable accumulation of executive power and lawlessness, which at the end of the day, is going to undermine the very principles and values which we proclaim to uphold in this fight against terror and...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  But Katrina, didn‘t the president tell us last week, though, that he wasn‘t spying on—wasn‘t listening to domestic calls?

VANDEN HEUVEL:  The president all along, Joe—I mean, a few years ago in Buffalo said there was no wiretapping without a court warrant.  The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, that FISA statute, is adequate, more than adequate to secure this nation.  So what we‘re seeing, again, is an administration which wants to accumulate as much power.  This man is unfit to be head of the CIA, in my view, and I think the Senate should send a signal that this country has zero tolerance for government officials who break the law.  That‘s up and down the line.  Hayden is just a cog in this administration, which, again—don‘t listen to me, listen to the Cato Institute.  Listen to conservatives who believe the ultimate responsibility is to protect, preserve and defend the Constitution.

SCARBOROUGH:  And Brad, let me—I mean, isn‘t it true that conservatives are also very angry with this administration, and they believe, just like Katrina does, that all George Bush has to do is utter the words “terrorism,” and he‘s given a free ride by Congress.

BRAD BLAKEMAN, FORMER ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BUSH:  The conservatives are not upset with the president over this issue at all.  Let me remind you that less than two years ago, General Hayden was unanimously confirmed for the number two spot over all our intelligence.  I submit to you, Joe...

SCARBOROUGH:  But that‘s a different time, though, wasn‘t it, Brad?

BLAKEMAN:  No.  Let—let—no.  Let me submit to you, Joe, that this is actually a comedown for General Hayden, to be taken off his post as the number two guy for all national intelligence, 15 spy agencies, and running one.  He was unanimously confirmed for the number two spot less than two years ago.  This guy is a patriot!

SCARBOROUGH:  So why‘s the president demoting him?

BLAKEMAN:  Because we need him now at the CIA.  We need him for a critical mission.  We need the CIA revamped.  We need better intelligence.  We need, quite frankly, to revamp our hiring practice at the CIA and get more foreign speakers, get more ethnic diversity.  There‘s...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  ... the CIA screwed up, but Americans also believe that this administration is not going in the right direction when it comes to these NSA spying scandals.  A “USA Today”/Gallup poll found a majority of Americans disapprove of this NSA database of phone records.  And this is what they say.  Forty-three percent say they approved the program; 51 percent said they disapprove.  That‘s very bad news for a president that‘s sitting at 29 percent in the latest Harris poll, isn‘t it, Brad?

VANDEN HEUVEL:  This is a sinking ship.

BLAKEMAN:  No—no—no, it isn‘t, Joe, because the American people don‘t fully understand yet the scope by which we‘re keeping America safe.  And quite frankly, the spin and the disinformation, sometimes perception becomes reality and that becomes what their belief is.

(CROSSTALK)

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Joe?

BLAKEMAN:  This government is not spying on individuals.  This government is using every available technology under law to keep us safe.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  How can you say “under law”...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Katrina?

VANDEN HEUVEL:  How can you say “under law” with a straight face?  The former...

BLAKEMAN:  Easy!  Because that‘s what we are doing!

VANDEN HEUVEL:  The former National Security Agency, Bobby Ray Inman, no liberal, said that this program is without legal authorization.  The slippery slope here is you have—Joe, you mentioned the figure, I think, 200 million phone logs.  We‘re talking about pot luck dinners being prepared and Little League games, just what this administration denied they were listening to.

BLAKEMAN:  They‘re not listening to them!  They collected telephone numbers.  there‘s no content, and there‘s no names attached.

VANDEN HEUVEL:  All right, here‘s the problem...

BLAKEMAN:  This is—this is using the best technology we can to keep us safe.  Why wouldn‘t we do it?

VANDEN HEUVEL:  Why don‘t we do it within legal means?  Part of our fight against terror has to do with winning hearts and minds.  By not obeying the rule of law, we send a signal to the world that we are debasing the very values we proclaim.  We can be safe and free, and I think oversight is crucial.

By the way, Joe, you mentioned earlier the failure of oversight.  Representative Conyers, Senator Feingold, Senator Kennedy, Morris Hinchey, a very good representative—they have tried to get the Department of Justice to investigate who authorized these illegal wiretaps, and the administration has denied clearances.  Where is the oversight?

This is the destruction of a democracy by a one-party government.  We need divided government, and we need to protect a Constitution that has been protected at very difficult times...

SCARBOROUGH:  Katrina...

(CROSSTALK)

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll tell you, Katrina, I can talk about that all night, and I think that trend started 30 years ago.  It didn‘t start with this administration.  It‘s certainly accelerated since 9/11.

Brad, we‘re out of time, but I got to give you the last word.  Go ahead.

BLAKEMAN:  The bottom line is, if the president didn‘t do every available instrument at his discretion to keep us safe under his authority under Article 2 of the Constitution, then it would be asking for his scalp.  He‘s doing exactly the right thing and at the exact right time.  He‘s keeping us safe.

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thank you so much.  Brad Blakeman and Katrina Vanden Heuvel, as always, greatly appreciate you being with us.

It‘s time now for another “Flyover” of SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, the stories the mainstream media ignores but we don‘t.

First up, Port Washington, Wisconsin, where high school teachers there are asking kids why in the world they‘d ever decide to be heterosexual.  Parents are outraged about the survey sent home to hundreds of school children asking leading questions that suggested students shouldn‘t knock what they haven‘t tried.  One survey question asked, If you‘ve never slept with someone of the same gender, how do you know you wouldn‘t like it?  The survey was then discussed in class, then in the community, and tonight all across SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  The principal promises a full investigation.

Next stop, Littleton, Colorado, where the victims of the Columbine school shooting are up in arms about a violent video game that targets Columbine students.  You heard right.  Super Columbine Massacre‘s an Internet-based video game that puts players in the shoes of the two masked murderers who slaughtered 12 students and a teacher and injured 24 others during their 1999 killing spree at Columbine.  The game‘s creators used real pictures of the school shooting and say they‘ve created Super Columbine Massacre to, quote, “promote dialogue.”  Parents of the victims are understandably outraged.

And finally tonight, we go to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where one high school senior was banned from his prom for having emergency brain surgery?  That‘s right, Kevin Phelps‘s (ph) mentally challenged principal tried to keep the senior student away from his prom because the brain surgery obviously kept Kevin away from school for long stretches this year.  The principal said allowing that student to attend prom would violate school policy.  But fortunately, the superintendent stepped in and told Kevin to keep his baby blue tux on hold, since he‘d be allowed to attend the prom after all.

You know, to me, it sounds like Kevin‘s principal is the who had issues with his brain.

Now, when we come back in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY—and then there were two, “American Idol” making history last night while it raced towards its finale.

And big budgets, big stars, big (INAUDIBLE)  We‘re going to look at the worst bombs of all time and ask our experts if a certain big-budget movie that opens tomorrow will be joining that list.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  They‘re the worst of the worst movies of all time, from “Heaven‘s Gate,” to “Waterworld,” to “The Da Vinci Code”?  Well, we‘ll tell you what critics are saying about that movie when we return, but first here‘s the latest news you and your family need to know. 

(NEWSBREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  They‘re the worst of the worst, Hollywood‘s biggest big budget bombs.  Tonight, though, the question is:  Will one of the most anticipated movie of the year join that list?  A film fiasco.

And the star of “24” wages his own personal war on Christmas.  And we‘ve got it on tape. 

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  We‘re going to have those stories in just minutes.  But first, it‘s time for tonight‘s “Must See SC,” video you‘ve just got to see. 

First up, this Belgian base jumper took the ultimate plunge off the Eiffel Tower.  He snuck up the Parisian landmark earlier this morning, armed only with a parachute and his helmet cam.  He jumped almost 900 feet to the ground, where his friends were waiting to whisk him away. 

Now, the jump was part of a stunt for a Belgian comedy show, and it was a 34-year-old‘s fifth jump off the Paris landmark.  Hey, it‘s good to know that Belgium is finally contributing to Western culture. 

Up next, we got to Doral, Florida, where this man-eating beast is lurking around in the back yard of Doral neighborhood.  An alligator trapper was called in to corral the 700-pound gator, but it took 3 ½ hours just to duct tape the beast into submission. 

The trapper decided this was a job for the heavy lifter, so he called in a tow truck to haul the monster gator away.  The gator was hauled away, friends, to Gatorland in Orlando.  I don‘t think I‘ll go visiting there any time soon.

And finally, talk about exacting revenge on your landlord.  A Utah man moved out of this townhouse, leaving behind 70,000 beer cans.  The landlord says a man lived there for eight years and never threw out a single can, all of which were Coors Lights. 

Cleaning crews cashed in, recycling the cans for about $800.  And as of 9:00 p.m. tonight, no word yet on where Utah‘s answer to Homer Simpson was moving next. 

Now, last night, the curtain finally fell on Elliott who was bounced off of “American Idol” by a razor-thin margin. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN SEACREST, HOST, “AMERICAN IDOL”:  Elliott Yamin, the journey ends, but you have a lot to be proud of. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCARBOROUGH:  It was the closest vote ever for “American Idol,” except, some say, the Clay Aiken-Ruben Studdard finale which others say was reportedly fixed.  Now, take a look at this:  It‘s down to decimal points.  And FOX, of course, wouldn‘t reveal who got the remaining votes, but they finally did give Americans a few vote tally.  That is so close.

The question I have is:  Did “Idol” give us the numbers last night because they wanted to dispel rumors that the show is rigged? 

Right now, let‘s bring in Tom O‘Neil.  He‘s from “In Touch Weekly.”  We also have Nancy O‘Dell, who was in the audience last week.  She‘s from “Access Hollywood.”  We also have, from “Life and Style,” Dawn Yanek. 

Tom, let me start with you.  You have been complaining about “American Idol‘s” voting system for some time.  You‘ve been that that finale a few years back was rigged.  Do you think is this a step in the right direction? 

TOM O‘NEIL, “IN TOUCH WEEKLY”:  No, because I think we really need to investigate the company that is supposed to be investigating the vote tallies.  There is an independent company, by the way, in Britain who‘s supposed to be in charge of this.  We never hear from them. 

We hear these numbers from “American Idol” that I‘m not sure can trust.  We have to be very skeptical this year, because this could be a huge potential year for rigging, again, like the Ruben versus Clay year, where they clearly had an agenda that showed.  They didn‘t want Clay to win.  They were afraid he‘s gay and that might come out someday, so they pushed that into Ruben‘s direction. 

They clearly have an agenda this year to push Taylor.  And it will be interesting to see how they manipulate that this year, if that comes up. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re saying they want him to win? 

O‘NEIL:  Oh, hands down.  Not only Simon Cowell said so the other night on “The Tonight Show,” I think that Taylor has such exuberant personality, they‘re playing to the crowds here.  The guy doesn‘t have much talent.  I think, quite frankly, long term, what career is this guy going to have, but he could be a novelty act in Vegas, wiggling his fanny to the delight of fat women from Battle Creek, Michigan, to be blunt about it.

Katharine has talent.  She can go someplace, but she‘s a little bland. 

It‘s an interesting race. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Nancy, talk about, if you will, who these “Idol” judges want to win this year.  Talk about their supposed favorites.  And also, if you will, talk about some of the fighting between them, and that interesting dynamic, how that‘s made this year one of the most explosive “Idol” years yet?

NANCY O‘DELL, “ACCESS HOLLYWOOD”:  Well, first of all, I have to say that I completely disagree.  I don‘t think that this show would be rigged in any way, shape, or form.  I mean, it‘s too valuable of an entity to FOX to possibly rig it.  Because if somebody were to find out, it would be the downfall of “American Idol” because nobody would watch it, because nobody would trust it again. 

And, you know, it‘s making millions of dollars for the network and all the producers.  They‘re not going to take any chances with that.  So I don‘t think there is any of that. 

The only thing that people are saying sometimes is that, how do you get to vote multiple times for the same person?  But you get to do it across the board, so you can‘t really say that‘s unfair. 

And as far as the judges and who their favorites are, you know, from the beginning, Simon even said that Taylor wasn‘t going to make it through.  He said, you know, I think if you make it through to the top 12, you‘ll be voted off immediately.  So I don‘t think he is one of the favorites or has ever been.

I don‘t think they expected him to make it this far.  From day one, I always loved Taylor, but a lot of people that you‘ll talk to will be like, you know, I didn‘t think he was going to make it through.  So I think Katharine is much more commercial.  I actually think she‘s very much more commercial, and I think that...

SCARBOROUGH:  I was just going say, Nancy, they sure do love him in Alabama.  I was in Alabama earlier this week, and the guys...

O‘DELL:  Oh, he‘s huge.

SCARBOROUGH:  ... and the guy‘s like Elvis up there.  But tell me about the in-fighting, about Ryan going after Paula, Paula going after Simon, and this round and round merry-go-round.  What have you heard about that? 

O‘DELL:  Well, I think, for being a TV insider, I think it‘s such a smart show.  I think all of the judges are very smart.  I think the producers are very smart, and I think Ryan is very smart. 

And all the in-fighting that you hear about, it continues to help shows like this, “Access Hollywood,” and shows like yours talk about the in-fighting, and it keeps, you know, the interest there.  And you‘re looking to see, in addition to watching all the contestants, you want to see how Simon is going to pick on Paula.  You want to see how Ryan is going to pick on Paula or if they‘re speaking or not. 

And I just think that they‘re brilliant at the way that they do it.  So what I‘m saying is that, yes, there may be a little in-fighting going on, because isn‘t there always at, you know, all the different shows?  But I think it‘s portrays a lot more in the media than maybe something that‘s actually taking place. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Dawn, I want to ask you about the question that Tom touched on at the top about the possibility that this is being rigged.  I think Dawn makes a very good point, that this institution, this cultural institution now is so valuable to FOX, the last thing they can afford is a scandal that would end it, right? 

DAWN YANEK, “LIFE AND STYLE”:  Yes, absolutely.  I‘d be very surprised if it was rigged.  I mean, of course, there are all sorts of conspiracy theories that go around, especially with such an enormously popular show like this.  But I think, if anything proves that it wasn‘t rigged, it‘s the whole Chris Daughtry episode, where, I mean, nobody expected Chris to be voted off.  Of course, did it make people talk about it more and watch more?  Of course, it did. 

I mean, this show is such a huge phenomenon.  And I agree with Nancy when she said it would be such an incredible downfall if it actually was rigged. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, do you think the judges have a favorite this year? 

YANEK:  You know, Simon has certainly said that Taylor is his favorite, but I really do think that anything goes.  And I know Tom hates it when I say that in this instance, but I do think it‘s true. 

I mean, the race was so incredibly close this time around.  We‘re talking hundredth of a percentage.  And Taylor has a lot of things going for him.  He‘s fantastic on stage.  He‘s a lot of fun, but he‘s not a traditional “Idol.”  Katharine, on the other hand, is that girl with stars in her eyes, and she has a very appealing quality to America.  So I think it‘s going to be a really good, really close race. 

SCARBOROUGH:  I‘ll tell you, it‘s fun just watching Taylor do his routine at the judges table. 

YANEK:  Absolutely.

SCARBOROUGH:  Tom, let‘s get a prediction from you, Tom.  Who do you think is going to win next week? 

O‘NEIL:  I think it‘s Katharine.  I‘m not sure a man can win this race.  I mean, the whole Ruben thing—I can prove, by the way, and have on this show in the past that that was rigged, and we have all the conclusive evidence that we need there.  If you discount that year, a woman has won every time, and 73 percent of the voters are female.  I think that argues very well for Katharine. 

SCARBOROUGH:  OK, I‘ve got to go, but I need to ask my two females on the panel, who do you think is going to win?  Nancy, you first. 

O‘DELL:  Well, I‘ve always said from day one I love Taylor.  I think he is so entertaining and, yes, I think that Katharine is a little more commercial, but the way that he entertains the crowd—and I remember him from day one of the auditions and watching him on the show, and I loved him, loved him. 

Now, Simon has said that he predicts that he may win, but he‘s never said that he was actually his favorite. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, Dawn, and who do you think is going to win? 

YANEK:  You know, I think it‘s going to be really close.  And, again, I think, because of what happened with Chris, I think it‘s almost impossible to predict.  So I can go either way. 

SCARBOROUGH:  You sound like a politician, Dawn.

YANEK:  I know. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Dawn Yanek, Nancy O‘Dell, Tom O‘Neil, thank you so much for being with us.  I think it‘s Taylor‘s year. 

Coming up next, remember this movie “Ishtar”?  It‘s just one example of Hollywood‘s biggest flops.  Is another about-to-be-released blockbuster about to join the film of major league flops?  We‘ll ask our experts straight ahead.

And we‘re on baby watch.  One magazine calling Brangelina‘s spawn the most anticipated baby since Jesus.  I‘ve got issues, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  The wait‘s over, and “The Da Vinci Code” opens tomorrow, but critics are telling viewers that Public Enemy had it right:  Don‘t believe the hype. 

The “Chicago Tribune” asks of the film, “How can any movie contain so many clues and yet remain utterly clueless?”  “Rolling Stone” dubs it a “dreary, droning, dull-witted adaptation.”  And “Time” magazine simply says, “It‘s not very good, long and mostly inert.”  Let them say that of me when I day, inert. 

Sony, you know, is riding on the “Da Vinci Code,” has all its hopes this summer riding on that, but could this film join the list of Hollywood‘s greatest flops ever?  Let‘s bring in right now Sharon Waxman of “The New York Times” and James Robert Parish.  He‘s the author of “Fiasco:

A History of Hollywood‘s Iconic Flops.” 

Sharon, let me start with you.  I guess the question that has to be asked, and so many critics hate this movie is, is it review proof? 

SHARON WAXMAN, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”:  Yes, Sony is hoping that it‘s going to be review-proof, because they haven‘t really been previewing the movie.  They‘ve really been—some would say they‘ve been hiding the movie.  They only showed it to critics on Tuesday night, the day before, that it was debuted at the Cannes Film Festival only three days before the movie‘s opening, and it wasn‘t even shown to theatre owners until last Friday, which is about the last possible day you can legally show it to exhibiters. 

But I really think that, for opening weekend, it is going to be review-proof.  People want to go see this movie.  There is so much anticipation around it.  But over the long term, it‘s not so much about the reviews, but about the fact of the movie.  If it‘s not in fact entertaining, then that‘s going to hurt the word of mouth on the picture, and it‘s not going to do the kind of business that Sony had hoped. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Now, how nervous is Sony, how nervous is Hollywood that this film is going to just go off into the ditch, like an “Ishtar,” or, after a great first weekend, tank? 

WAXMAN:  Well, you know, I don‘t know if the “Ishtar” comparison

works, because “Ishtar” was so expensive.  This was not one of the all-time

most expensive movies in Hollywood history, like “Titanic” or something

like that, or “King Kong” was so expensive, Universal‘s movie last

December.

But this was—it‘s a hugely important movie for Sony, which was not been doing well at the box office lately.  So, for them, it‘s very important.  And as you point out in your question, it is important for Hollywood because a lot of people know the box office last year had a terrible year, attendance is down for three years in a row. 

It‘s doing better this year, but this was—a lot of studios had their hopes pinned on this movie to kind of give the whole business a boost.  So, you know, kind of all of Hollywood was sort of hoping this movie was going to do well.  I don‘t think there‘s going to be a lot of schadenfreude happiness if the movie doesn‘t do well at other studies.

SCARBOROUGH:  Because, as you say, in Hollywood, a rising tide lifts all boats.  If one movie does great, that gets other people into the theatres. 

James, I want to put up a few of your picks for Hollywood fiascos.  “Cleopatra,” starring Elizabeth Taylor.  The 1980 flop “Popeye” with Robin Williams, and the movie title that still makes Hollywood snicker, Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty‘s “Ishtar,” Kevin Costner‘s dismal “Waterworld,” which sank at the box office, and finally “Battlefield Earth,” which left moviegoers with the lasting image of John Travolta‘s dreadlocks and produced my favorite movie review of all-time.

James, it was a “Washington Post” reviewer who said of “Battlefield

Earth”:  “A million monkeys in a million years with a million crayons could

not have written a script as bad as ‘Battlefield Earth.‘” 

Talk about what makes these movies historically bad, in the realm of “Heaven‘s Gate.” 

JAMES ROBERT PARISH, AUTHOR, “FIASCO”:  Well, a lot of these pictures start out with a lot of anticipation.  They do a lot of hype.  They get a big-name cast.  They try to get a lot of good behind-the-camera talent, and then they think that, well, what could possibly go wrong? 

In the case of “Cleopatra,” everything that could go wrong with the movie did go wrong.  They started filming in England, but they forget about the fact that it was foggy all the time.  Elizabeth Taylor nearly died over there getting pneumonia. 

Then they went to Rome, where they originally were going to film, and forgot the fact that there wasn‘t any really available space to film.  And that caused further delays. 

They decided to rebuild the sets, and the only thing that even salvaged the picture was the totally unexpected.  Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton had a big affair during the making of the picture. 

And afterwards, just like with people with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, they rushed to see the movie hoping that they could see on camera when these two love birds were really sparking.  But even that, with all the people rushing to see it for the Taylor-Burton l‘amour really didn‘t help save the picture. 

It was such a stinker, and it‘s really terribly boring to sit through the three hours of it all.  And it‘s an almost excruciating experience. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, you know, Sharon, it‘s interesting that he talks about boring, and you look at the film, and I almost went to sleep there just looking at the video of it.  But what I‘ve heard about “The Da Vinci Code” is the fact that it‘s a joyless film.  The book was a fun read, whether you like it or whether you like what it said or not.  But I‘ve heard time and time again it wasn‘t fun, it was joyless.  And yet again, I‘m going to go see it this weekend, and I would guess millions of others will, also. 

WAXMAN:  Yes, people will go see it, but you almost wonder if the task, this monumental task of translating this hugely—you know, this phenomena, this book, and all of these elements, expensive elements, and all of the expectations swirling around it, if that didn‘t somehow paralyze the filmmakers into, you know, not wanting to make a false step and, in doing that, they sort of sucked the fun out of making a thriller. 

It‘s almost what, if you read the reviews, you can kind of draw that out of it, and I did see the movie last night, and I can‘t say that the room was having a rollicking great time.  I mean, it‘s long. 

SCARBOROUGH:  A.O. Scott says it‘s longer than the book.  Hey, thanks a lot, Sharon Waxman and James Robert Parish.  We‘ll be right back with my issues, straight ahead. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  Hey, I‘m Joe.  I don‘t have a code to crack, and I‘ve got issues.

First up, I‘ve got issues with all of the hype and hoopla surrounding Baby Brangelina, who‘s yet to be born.  The paparazzi are feverishly staked out in Namibia waiting the arrival of the baby, which the “New York” magazine has dubbed the most eagerly anticipated birth since the birth of Jesus. 

Hype?  What hype?  Brad and Angelina had better hurry up if they‘re looking for their manger, because the due date is reported to be today. 

Next up, I‘ve got issues with Kiefer Sutherland‘s interior decorating techniques.  The story of Agent Jack Bauer attacking a hotel Christmas tree was urban legend around these parts until now.  It seems the gifted “24” star wrestled the Christmas tree to the ground in a hotel lobby while at a party there last December.

London papers quoted him, saying, at the time, “I hate that blanking tree.  The tree has to come down.” 

Now, instead of bringing his interior decorator to take it down, Kiefer did the heavy lifting himself, though he was polite enough to ask the hotel staff if he could tear down the tree.  Thank God for us, they said yes. 

And finally, I‘ve got issues with Matt Leinart, who‘s said to be Paris Hilton‘s new superstar boy toy football player.  “Star” magazine says the quarterback was warned by his new team, the Arizona Cardinals, that if he‘s serious about being a great Q.B., he‘d better stay away from a certain slutty socialite. 

A source also told “Star” magazine that Leinart took the reprimand very seriously, almost to the point, they say, of tears.  Hey, Matt, no need for tears, dude.  Paris has been passed around more than Vince Young‘s football at last year‘s Rose Bowl.  You can do better, man, much better. 

And when we come back, we‘ll have tonight‘s mail bag, probably from Paris Hilton.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCARBOROUGH:  It‘s time for SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY‘s mail bag.  Let‘s go to Gia in California who writes in, “As a Catholic, I don‘t support ‘The Da Vinci Code‘ this weekend.  I‘m going to the movies, but I‘ll see another film.  I can send a message without a lifting a sign or shouting in protest.”

Apparently, Gia, millions of others will probably agree with you this weekend.

Hey, send your e-mails to Joe@MSNBC.com.  And thanks for being with us tonight.  Stick around, because Rita Cosby starts right now.

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

END   

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