updated 6/2/2006 11:56:17 AM ET 2006-06-02T15:56:17

Guests: Howard Fineman, Maria Milito

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

Values training, the military‘s first response to Haditha.  Seminars and training scenarios and slide shows in the middle of the war.

The investigation of the grim scene already turning up grim facts, officers who gave false information to their superiors, superiors who failed to really read the reports.

Iraq, terror, gas prices, political corruption, front burner on Capitol Hill, the push to get the marriage amendment through the Senate.  Is anybody in Washington paying attention to the real world?

Or the polls.  The latest, the good news for Mr. Bush, he‘s at 34 percent.  The bad news, this was a poll to see who is the worst president since World War II, and he won it by a landslide.

Worst O‘Reilly mistake ever.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR,” FOX NEWS)

BILL O‘REILLY, HOST, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:  In Malmedy, as you know, U.S. forces captured S.S. forces who had their hands in the air, and they were unarmed, and they shot them down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  No, in World War II it was the other way around.  Why is O‘Reilly insisting he‘s right?  Why has Fox altered the transcripts?  Why are they defending Nazi war criminals who killed American servicemen?  The real story of Malmedy.

And Mom was a Katharine McPhee fan, Sonny liked Taylor Hicks, Mom and Sonny had been drinking, so naturally he hit her in the head with a cross attached to a bicycle chain.  No wonder people love “American Idol.”

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

We have already had to learn the name Haditha, to commit it to memory alongside other names of places of which we did not know, other places about which we wish we were not ashamed, like Abu Ghraib and My Lai.  Tonight, we must learn another name.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, another alleged massacre of Iraqi civilians at the hands of U.S. forces, the BBC reporting it has uncovered video evidence that American troops may have been responsible for the deliberate killing of 11 Iraqi civilians in the town of Ishaqi in March.

Even before that news, Haditha was enough to convince the top U.S.  commander in Iraq to order that his troops, all of them, be retrained in how to deal with civilians, Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli today calling for new so-called core values training for all 150,000 U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, Power Point presentations, and role-playing exercises, General Chiarelli saying in a statement that the training would highlight, quote, “the importance of adhering in legal, moral, and ethical standards on the battlefield,” military investigators strongly suspecting a small number of Marines snapped after one of their own was killed in a car bombing last November, 24 Iraqi civilians shot and killed in apparent retaliation, “The Washington Post” now reporting that the military investigation into the killings is expected to conclude that some officers gave false information to their superiors, and that those superiors did not scrutinize the details, the president promising full accountability, explaining why American forces in Iraq need a course on core values.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Our troops have been trained on core values throughout their training, but obviously there was an incident that took place in Iraq that‘s now been investigated, and this is just a reminder for troops either in Iraq or throughout our military that there are high standards expected of them and that there are strong rules of engagement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  For an informed perspective, let‘s turn to retired Army major general John Batiste, the former commander of the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, one of the retired generals who had called publicly for the resignation of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.

Thank you for your time, sir.

MAJ. GEN. JOHN BATISTE (RET.), U.S. ARMY:  Thank you, Keith.  It‘s good to be with you.

OLBERMANN:  Forgive me, but aren‘t American troops already trained in how to behave on a battlefield?  Are they not taught what acceptable a behavior is, and what it‘s not, and if they do not have that knowledge, is a seminar the answer at this point?

BATISTE:  Well, they are trained.  Very extensive rehearsals before they deploy into combat.

But what General Chiarelli‘s doing right now is absolutely appropriate, and it‘s not out of the ordinary.  I‘ve seen this done before in Iraq, and I‘ve seen it done with safety instances in the peacetime Army as well.

OLBERMANN:  As we heard after the Abu Ghraib prison photos came out, the incident at Haditha is described as an isolated case.  Is there, is there something of a conflict there?  Can it be both isolated and yet require all the troops there to have to go through core values training because of it?

BATISTE:  Keith, I think that our great military justice system will get to the bottom of Haditha.  The investigation will uncover the facts, and the facts will take us to accountability, whatever‘s appropriate.

But I draw a couple of conclusions from this.  One is, our great military is underresourced in Iraq.  And two is, I‘m reminded that we went to war with the secretary of defense‘s plan, his plan alone.  He dismissed honest dissent, built his plan, which did not account for the hard work to build the peace, and didn‘t account for the insurgency, which was an absolute certainty.

OLBERMANN:  Can the incident at Haditha—should the incident at Haditha be traced back directly to the leadership of the secretary?  Is that a fair straight line to draw, or is it too condemning of the secretary?

BATISTE:  In my mind, it is a straight line.  It‘s an absolute line.  It‘s in the same category as the national disgrace of Abu Ghraib.  It‘s in the same category as the incredible chaos that we‘ve had in Iraq for the past three years.

Our secretary of defense never anticipated the insurgency, which, in

my mind, is criminal.  He should have anticipated it.  I remember well when

Lieutenant General William Wallace, one of our great core commanders, made

reference to the insurgency during the attack north into Baghdad.  And the

secretary of defense went ballistic, and all but relieved him on the spot for his views.

This is an indication to me of what has gone so horribly wrong.  We built the wrong plan.  We didn‘t take the numbers and the capability of troops into Iraq to deal with building the peace and dealing with the insurgency.

This is hard work.  It‘s much harder than taking down the regime.  You‘ve got to change attitudes and give people alternatives to the insurgency.  You have to break the cycle of violence.  You have to control the ground.  You have to intimidate the insurgency.  You have to control the borders with Syria and Iran.

It‘s incredibly difficult.  This is all about the human dimension of warfare, which our secretary of defense, in his view of transformation, does not understand.  His micromanagement of our military during the critical phases of the deployment, and the initial occupation of Iraq, tied the hands of our commanders.

These commanders, great generals, were consumed with managing shortages, rather than commanding, leading, and anticipating opportunity and fighting a very tough counterinsurgency.

So we are where we are, which should have been a very deliberate victory, is now a protracted challenge.  Before we can move forward, I believe that the American people deserve accountability.  I believe that the congressional oversight committees need to start answering or asking the right questions, tough questions that need to be answered, before we can move forward.

OLBERMANN:  On the ground in Iraq, sir, if you—we assume and presume that there would be no change at the top of the Pentagon, how do you retrofit, in a sense, whatever the troops are lacking in Iraq on the ground, so we have no more of these things?

BATISTE:  The answer is, do we have the political will to finish what we started?  Do we have the resources to apply against this fight?  I believe we need to win.  I also believe we need the right leadership at the top of the Department of Defense whose instinct and judgment we trust to take us forward in this incredible war on terrorism, which we have no option but to win.

I think victory hangs in the balance.

OLBERMANN:  Specifically, back at Haditha, there have been reports that the military authorized payments of $2,500 to the relatives of each of the Iraqi victims there.  That‘s not the kind of money that a corporal is to have in his pocket, nor to have access to.  How high up the ladder would you expect that—for this process would have had to have gone for payments of that size to have been authorized and issued?

BATISTE:  You‘d have to ask the chain of command in Iraq.  But it‘s definitely above the squad level.

OLBERMANN:  Is it necessary that there has been a full-scale coverup for an event like this to have taken place, and had so many different and invalid explanations that maintained some seeming veracity to this point?  Is there any other explanation?

BATISTE:  Keith, let‘s let that military justice system, which I described at the beginning, play out.  Let‘s let the investigation finish its work.  The facts will fall out where they may.  You know, I believe in the system.  For 31 years it never failed me.  And it won‘t this time.

OLBERMANN:  We hope you are correct on that, sir.

Retired Army major general John Batiste joining us from Rochester, New York.  Great thanks for your time, great thanks for your insight.

BATISTE:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The war in Iraq making for a bitter homecoming in London on Thursday, CBS News cameraman Paul Douglas and sound technician James Brolan returning home from their last assignment, family and friends gathering at Heathrow Airport there for a moving ceremony.

The two journalists killed Monday when a car bomb exploded as they, along with CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier, were shooting a Memorial Day story on what life is like for American troops in Baghdad.  Kimberly Dozier said to be awake now and alert at a U.S. military hospital in Germany, where she is recovering from the serious wounds she received in the same bombing, CBS News reporting that she has now been told about the death of her colleagues.  Unable to speak because of a respirator, Ms.  Dozier started communication by writing.  The first question she asked, “What happened to the crew?”

President Bush finally comes out tops in a new poll.  Except that poll question, nothing to be proud of.

Will old favorite GOP wedge issues help turn the president‘s popularity back around?  Howard Fineman joins us.

And speaking of nothing to be proud of, in trying to defend our troops, this man has now instead defended Nazi war criminals from World War II, and an embarrassed Fox News yet again tries to rewrite its own history.

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  President Bush has finally done exceptionally well in a public opinion poll.  Unfortunately for him, the poll was conducted to determine the worst president over the last six decades.  No electoral college required, either.  He won in a landslide.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, nor is a college education required to deduce the reason.  Mr. Bush may never be able to get much of a credible word in edgewise as long as there are still troops in Iraq, the president convening his cabinet, determined to advance some kind of domestic agenda, apparently, but the war in Iraq keeps intruding, as reflected by those presidential poll numbers in a new survey by Quinnepiac University, asking which president since World War II was the worst, Mr. Bush took top dishonors, a plurality of 34 percent picking the current commander in chief as the worst, doubling his nearest challenger, Richard Nixon.

Bill Clinton got 16 percent, although Clinton also came in second place on the best president list.

The same poll confirmed the obvious.  Iraq is the principal reason voters disapprove of Mr. Bush.  No other single issue scored higher than 10 percent, although 13 percent said they disliked everything about him.

By the way, the president‘s job approval numbers were in line with other recent polls in Quinnepiac, 35 percent approving, 58 percent disapproving.

Let‘s call in “Newsweek‘s” chief political correspondent, MSNBC political analyst, Howard Fineman.  Good to talk to you, Howard. 

HOWARD FINEMAN, NEWSWEEK:  Hi, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  This is not exactly breaking news here.  Iraq‘s this president‘s albatross.  What would be breaking news is if there was something with which he could shake the albatross‘ grip loose.  Something in the way of domestic policy, maybe?  Is there anything on the horizon? 

FINEMAN:  Well, I keep looking down the list for something.  The economy overall has done very well the last two or three years.  People live in the individual, not the overall.  But overall, it‘s done very well, and yet President Bush hasn‘t gotten really any political bounce out of that. 

Now, there are signs that the economy is slowing.  So that‘s sort of a down side for him. 

I mean, I suppose if he could command a $1 a gallon drop in gasoline prices overnight, that would boost his numbers.  But short of that, even a sweeping energy policy, which I think people want and would approve of, isn‘t going to give an immediate boost.  And immigration is a complicated thing politically and getting more complicated by the day, in my view, as more and more people in his own party get up in arms about the Senate compromise that he‘s supporting.  So there‘s no really good news early on the horizon, unless perhaps, you know, they perform well as a government the next time a hurricane strikes. 

OLBERMANN:  Where is the president after dipping his toe into the subject of immigration?  Did he get it bitten of?  Did he make just enough of a on-the-record statement to get into the game without doing any damage to himself?  Where is he and where is it?

FINEMAN:  I don‘t think he‘s helped himself much at all.  And I think what‘s driving this as much as anything, and something people haven‘t focused on, is the fact that George Bush has an eye on other politics, which are in Mexico.  There‘s an election coming up in Mexico in July, and I think George Bush has been told by his advisers that he‘s got to get out there and try to get this bill done, or certainly talk about some kind of amnesty or guest worker provision.  Otherwise, the left-wing candidate could win in Mexico in July. 

But as he‘s busy trying to support the centrists in Mexico, he‘s damaging himself with his own Republican Party, because the more conservatives in the party look at the details of the Senate bill, the angrier they get. 

So, you know, I‘ve said before I think on this show, I think it‘s less than 50/50 that something arrives on his desk to be signed, and I think that‘s even more true today.

OLBERMANN:  Back to the elections here.  Is it naive to think that congressional Republicans might score points before November with the public by addressing Iraq head on, or have they all now painted themselves into the same corner, can‘t get out of there yet, so we‘ll have to talk about something else? 

FINEMAN:  Well, the problem they‘ve got is they have only one real direction to go, which is farther away from the president.  And most Republicans out there running for reelection now are not embracing him. 

I mean, having covered some of these races in some of these places, I know that they don‘t bring up George Bush‘s name all that often.  So they don‘t have that much more room to run away from him, unless they are going to start talking about withdrawing troops, which they aren‘t about to do, as indeed most Democrats aren‘t proposing at this point. 

OLBERMANN:  The president is reportedly going to resurrect his support, arguably token support for this constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, in a Rose Garden event on the 5th of June.  Senator Frist planning to bring back another oldie but goodie, the constitutional amendment on flag burning.  Obviously, anybody who‘s heard the term knows, these are shore-up-the-base attempts.  But is the base even still buying this stuff, or is there an argument going on there that there should be more substantial discussion than flags and gay marriage bans? 

FINEMAN:  Well, maybe they can move for another constitutional amendment to require people who get married to get married while they‘re wrapped in an American flag. 

I mean, I think the flag thing, that was from an earlier day and time, when we didn‘t have a whole world aflame, Keith.  I mean, we‘re talking about countries burning, not flags burning.  I think it seems almost trivial at this point. 

Supporting the troops is the real thing we have to do there, not worry about theoretical things about the flag. 

And as far as marriage, that‘s a big deal.  It‘s a big deal with the base.  It will still motivate the conservative evangelical base, but people condescend to evangelicals to think that all they care about is that.  They‘re as much concerned about the war in Iraq or about gasoline prices or about jobs as anybody else.  And I think Karl Rove and George Bush have gone to this well twice already -- 2002, 2004 -- helped them in both those elections.  I think they‘re at the stage of diminishing returns for this, in part because there aren‘t as many states this time around that have marriage ban proposals of one kind or another up on the ballot.  Not like ‘04. 

OLBERMANN:  Howard Fineman, of “Newsweek” and MSNBC.  As always, my friend, great thanks. 

FINEMAN:  Thanks, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  From the dicey waters of politics to the dicey waters of Hong Kong.  They went to a boat race, and a wet t-shirt contest broke out. 

Someone needs to splash some water into the faces of “American Idol” viewers.  The crowning moment followed in one home by a son crowning his own mom.  What a great show!  Details ahead here on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  One of pie many former employers went on the air exactly 26 years ago.  I had interviewed there a month before the launch, and my services were initially politely declined.  I then predicted they‘d never get it going.  And on their first day, I thought I was right.

The first time they cut to the New York anchor, my future friend Mary Alice Williams, superimposed over her the identification “Victim‘s Mother.”  Happy birthday to CNN.

Let‘s play Oddball.

Victim‘s mother.

We begin in Hong Kong‘s famous Aberdeen Harbor for the big annual festival of dragon boat races.  Look at them row.  Each boat more than 40 feet long and seats about—one, two, three, four—hold still, damn you!  Holds a whole bunch of rowers.  They prepare for years for this event, and chance at (inaudible) glory.  The boat race held each year to honor a Chinese statesman who drowned himself protesting corruption 2,000 years ago.  (INAUDIBLE) saved protesting corruption.  Others believe he was actually just yelling for a life preserver.

To Israel, where workers at a quarry have stumbled in the town of Ramli (ph) have stumbled upon an ancient cave containing eight animal species never before seen by human eyes, except that one, which was seen by Sigourney Weaver‘s eyes just before it took over her ship and killed the entire crew.

A Jerusalem biologist said the cave‘s ecosystem probably dates back about 5 million years, when the Mediterranean Sea covered parts of lobster (INAUDIBLE).

Speaking of creatures discovered in caves, Bill O‘Reilly rewrites World War II, not once, but twice.  Only this time, he shifted blame for an infamous massacre from the Nazis, who carried it out, to the young American servicemen who were its victims.

And a family snaps over “American Idol.”  Son ends up in jail, Mom ends up in the hospital.  Details ahead.

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

Number three, Fox Sports Net.  The cable outfit has announced that next month, it will debut a nightly sports highlight program to compete with ESPN‘s “Sports Center.”  Hey, we did this story already.  Last time Fox Sports Net tried this with me, they lost about $200 million, and canceled the program after about four years on the air.

So you new guys have a goal to shoot for.

Number two, the city fathers of Lawrence, Kansas, the latest to consider a ban on cell phone use by drivers.  But what is rapidly becoming the national standard, you can‘t use a hand-held cell phone while driving.  That is not enough in Lawrence, Kansas.  Noting that it‘s not holding the phone that causes a driver to lose concentration, but talking on the phone, they want to ban hand-held cells and hands-free devices.

Number one, the 58-year-old would-be knife-wielding bank robber who walked into the Sai Pama Rasana (ph) Bank in Kumagaya (ph), Japan.  He asked the teller, Any idea how you rob a bank?  The teller referred him to another staffer, who suggested he should just go home.  Apparently he should have asked even more questions, because when the police arrested him, they noticed the bloodstain on his trousers, which was the result of having accidentally stabbed himself while carrying the knife in his pocket.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Abraham Lincoln did not shoot John Wilkes Booth.  Titanic did not sink a north Atlantic iceberg.  And FOX News is neither fair nor balanced.  These are facts intelligible to all adults, most children, and some of your more discerning domesticated animals.  But not, as the third story on the COUNTDOWN prove yet again, not to Bill-O. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEWIE GRIFFIN, BABY, FAMILY GUY:  COUNTDOWN presents “Factor Fiction,” wherein we catch that bastard Bill O‘Reilly lying again.  Oh wait, no hold still.  Allow me to soil myself on you.  Victory is mine!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  The guilty pleasure offered by the existence of Bill O‘Reilly is simple but understandable, 99 times out of 100, when we belly up to the Bill-O bar of bluster, nearly every time we partake of the movable falafel feast he serves us nothing but comedy, farce, slapstick, unconscious self-mutilation, the Sideshow Bob of commentators forever stepping on the same rake, forever muttering the same grunted, inarticulate surrender, forever resuming the circle that will take him back to the same rake.  The Sisyphus of morons, if you will.  But this is the 100th time out of 100.  It is not funny at all.  Bill O‘Reilly has, for the second time in under eight months, slandered at least 84 dead American servicemen.  He has turned them again from victims of the kind of atrocity our country has always fought against into perpetrators of that kind of atrocity.  He has made these Americans into war criminals.  They are dead and have been dead for 61 years.  They cannot defend themselves against O‘Reilly.  We will have to do it for them. 

Last October Bill O‘Reilly railed against a ruling that more photos from the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq might be released.  His guest on his program was Wesley Clark.  Clark is a retired four-star general, was for four years supreme allied commander of NATO in Europe.  First in his class at West Point, wounded in Vietnam, earned the Bronze star, the Silver Star and has streets named for him in Alabama and in Kosovo.  Therefore, naturally O‘Reilly knows much more about the military than General Clark does.  Clark defended the release of the additional Abu Ghraib photos saying we need to know what happened and to correct it.  O‘Reilly lectured him and concluded that there had always been atrocities, even by Americans in war. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL O‘REILLY, “THE O‘REILLY FACTOR”:  General, you need to look at the Malmady Massacre in World War II in the 82nd airborne. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  It was a remarkable mistake.  The Belgian town of Malmady did lend its name to one of the most appalling battlefield war crimes of the 20th century.  But O‘Reilly‘s implication that the Americans committed it was entirely backwards.  Americans, most of them, members of the Battery B of the 285th Fuel Artillery Observation Battalion, surrendered to German Panzer troops and were then shot by their captures by the S.S. Yet O‘Reilly had implied that the Americans had massacred these Germans in this one stark moment of the Battler of the Bulge.  And he used this Alice through the looking glass view of history to somehow rationalize Abu Ghraib while trying to dress down a four-star American general.

Still it could have been a mistake, we make them.  Even historians do.  O‘Reilly had not explicitly called the Americans the war criminals of Malmady.  Our war troops, too, were accused of crimes against prisoners in the Second World War.  It was assumed last year that he had simply made a foolish error and though he got beaten up appropriately in some places, it was all largely dismissed as merely that, a mistake. 

Then came this Tuesday night, again O‘Reilly‘s guest was General Wes Clark.  This time the topic was the apparent murder of Iraqi civilians at Haditha.  That O‘Reilly was dismissive of that event should be no surprise, that he should have described as the real crime of Iraq the events of Abu Ghraib, should be no surprise of those who know of his willingness to jettison his most important beliefs of yesterday for the expediencies and the ratings of today, but that he should have brought up Malmady again, that was a surprise. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘REILLY:  In Malmady, as you know, U.S. forces captured S.S. forces who had their hands in the air and they were unarmed and they shot them down.  You know that.  That‘s on the record.  Been documented. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Thus was the full depth of Bill O‘Reilly‘s insult to the American debt of World War II made clear.  The mistake of last October was not some innocent slip nor misrembered history.  This was the way O‘Reilly understood and thus, this way it had to be.  No errors corrected, no apologies offered, no stopping the relentless tide of bull even briefly enough to check one fact. 

The facts of Malmady are terrifying as described by Michael Reynolds in his painstakingly detailed article from a 2003 issue of “World War II” magazine.  One week before Christmas, 1944, 139 U.S. soldiers, most of them from the 285th Field Artillery, encountered the German comf (ph) group, Piper, the leading formation of the German first S.S. Panzer Division, one of only two German units in the entire war which actually carried Adolf Hitler‘s name.  The American were overrun.  The 11 of the 139 soldiers were killed in the very short battle of Malmady, two more were killed as they tried to flee, seven escaped, six became prisoners of war.  The other 113 Americans, nearly all of whom had surrendered outright, were ordered to assemble in an open field next to a restaurant, the Cafe Bodarue (ph).  What happened next has been attributed to many things, a cold-blooded decision by that unit Panzer commander, Colonel Joachim Piper, that he could not handle the prisoners, or an unjustifiable overreaction to some kind of escape attempt or simply horrible mass murder. 

Within 15 minutes the S.S. Colonel or someone directly under him had ordered his men to shoot the unarmed American POWs.  The bodies at Malmedy were not found until a month later.  There were 84 of them, all American soldiers, more than half shotgun wounds to their heads.  Six had received fatal blows to the head, nine were found with their arms still raised above their heads.  The fact that O‘Reilly got these horrible facts completely backwards twice offended even his usually compliant viewers.  From his program Wednesday night:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O‘REILLY:  Don Caldwell, Fort Worth, TX.  Bill, you mentioned that Malmady as the site of an American massacre during World War II.  It was the other way around, the S.S. shot down U.S. prisoners.”

In the heat of the debate with General Clark, my statement wasn‘t clear enough, Mr. Caldwell.  After Malmady, some were executed by American troops. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Wrong answer.  When you are that wrong, when you are defending Nazi war criminals and pinning their crimes on Americans and you get caught doing so twice, you‘re supposed to say I‘m sorry, I was wrong, and then you‘re supposed to shut up for a long time.  Instead, FOX washed its transcript of O‘Reilly‘s remarks Tuesday.  Its Web site claims O‘Reilly said in Normandy, when, as you heard, in fact, he said in Malmedy. 

The rewriting of past reporting worthy of George Orwell has now carried over into such online transcription services as Burell‘s and Factiva.  Whatever did or did not happen later in supposed or actual retribution, the victims at Malmedy were Americans, gunned down while surrendering by Nazis in 1944 and again Tuesday night and Wednesday night by a false patriot who would rather be loud than right. 

In Malmedy, as you know, Bill O‘Reilly said on the air Tuesday night in some indecipherable attempt to defend the events of Haditha, “U.S.  forces captured S.S. forces who had their hands in the air and were unarmed and they shot them dead.  You know that, that‘s on the record and documented.”  The victims in Malmedy in December 1944 were Americans, Americans with their hands in the air, Americans who were unarmed.  That‘s on the record and documented, and their memory deserves better than Bill O‘Reilly.  We all do. 

Also here, heartbreak upon tragedy in Indiana.  A deadly car crash five weeks ago, one family mourned its loss, another prayed for recovery.  Then they each learned the coroner misidentified the victims. 

At the opposite end of the crime seriousness spectrum, son and mom argue over “American Idol,” she‘s now in the hospital, he‘s in jail.  Love that show.  Details ahead and we‘ll hear from the “Idol” final two.  Keep watching anyway.  First, here are COUNTDOWN‘s “Top 3 Sound Bites” of this day. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  That sound. 

WENDY GAY, HAS RACCOONS:  It‘s creepy. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A family of raccoons cracking Wendy‘s ceilings. 

GAY:  They‘re still in there scratching.  Do they do it in shifts or what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  They moved in a couple of weeks ago. 

GAY:  And they‘re big.  They‘re like the size of my 1-year-old. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And a lot of people say, oh, my gosh, I could never take my clothes off.  And it‘s kind of the American Institution that you don‘t show your body unless you‘re a perfect 10. 

BEVERLY, NUDIST:  You get closer faster. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Beverly has been a nudist for 15 years.  In addition to meeting new people, she tends a row of vegetables at the club.  Jessie, who is from the Greensborough area, really gets into the garden. 

JESSIE, NUDIST:  Some people goes, you‘re going where? 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  An unimaginable mistake by a coroner.  Two accident victims misidentified.  One said to be dead, the other said to be clinging to life.  Families find out the truth.  The identities were reversed.  Five weeks later they find out the truth.  That‘s next, this is COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It was an all too real version of an old Tom Berenger, Bob Haskins film called “Shattered,” a disastrous car accident, the young woman who survived it, literally injured beyond recognition and misidentified.  Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, a family who thought it lost a daughter got it back, but another experienced the almost unspeakable mirror image of that emotion.  Our correspondent is Kevin Tibbles.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEVIN TIBBLES, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  A tragic mix-up of identities following a deadly Indiana crash that killed five. 

RON MOWERY, CORONER, GRANT COUNTY, IN:  Tragedy upon tragedy. 

TIBBLES:  Two young women, both blonde, both students at Taylor University, were riding in a van on April 26 when it collided with a tractor-trailer.  Eighteen-year-old Whitney Cerak was pronounced dead.  Twenty-two-year-old Laura VanRyn survived, but remained in a coma.  Or at least that‘s what the authorities believed.  As she started to recover, the VanRyn family sensed something was wrong. 

BRUCE ROSSMAN, SPECTRUM HEALTH SYSTEMS:  The VanRyn family came to us with concerns.  We then started the process of dental identification. 

TIBBLES:  It was then discovered they had been misidentified.  She was not their daughter, but Whitney Cerak.  On the family‘s blog the VanRyns write, “Our hearts are aching as we have learned that the young woman we‘ve been taking care of over the past five weeks has not been our dare Laura, but instead a fellow Taylor student of hers.” 

MOWERY:  In one sense it has torn us apart, and in another sense it has brought this community together like I‘ve never seen it. 

TIBBLES (on camera):  In her hometown of Gaylord, Michigan the grave of Whitney Cerak sits in a local cemetery as her family now rejoices that their daughter is alive and grieves with the VanRyns. 

Kevin Tibbles, NBC News, Chicago. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  It would be impossible to offer a segue from that nightmare to the trivialities of our roundup of celebrity news, “Keeping Tabs,” so we‘ll just start.  Anna Nicole Smith, diet products spokesperson, supreme court-caused celeb and fan of octogenarian men has confirmed she is with child. 

Hi, it‘s me, Anna Nicole, as you can see.  I‘ve been hearing a lot gossip in the papers, is Anna pregnant?  She‘s pregnant.  She‘s pregnant by some guy?  Well, let me stop all the rumors.  Yes, I am pregnant. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Some guy.  That‘s the way to start a family.  The father is—give me a second, 90-year-old -- 80-year-old -- 70-year-old—no, no, no, the celebrity Web site tmz.com reports it‘s Larry Burkhead who seems to be somewhere near Ms. Smith‘s own geological era. 

Meantime it‘s nearly summer in Monaco which means it‘s time for Prince Albert‘s annual acknowledgement that he fathered a child out of wedlock.  Last year the ruler of the Mediterranean principality and son of Grace Kelly, of course, acknowledged that the 2-year-old son of a flight attendant from a tiny nation Togo was one of his.  Asked then by the “New York Times” if that was it for claims by women that he had fathered their children, Albert had said, quote, “I don‘t know of any others that could be true.”  Oops!

The prince has now officially recognized his paternity of a 14-year-old Jasmine Grace Rotolo of Palm Springs, California.  Next.  Neither child is eligible to succeed to Albert‘s throne or in other words, to become master of his domain. 

From too much love from the prince to too much love of “American Idol” relating to Prince, a mom and son come to blows over Hicks versus McPhee.  That‘s ahead.  I‘ll pretend to care.  But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World” besides those two.

The bronze to an unnamed 15-year-old girl from Switzerland arrested aboard an express train in Schtutgard, Germany because she was carrying a suspicious teddy bear.  Before you defend her, this teddy bear was 32 inches tall and was unusually heavy and had an extra seam on its stomach like a surgery scar.  That‘s probably because it contained 72 packets of cocaine.  She was smuggling in a bear. 

Our runner-up, Dennis D.  Cogburn, another purported ruiner of childhood imagery, he was driving an ice cream truck in Goshen, Indiana, driving it drunk, selling ice cream to kids while his empty bottle of vodka was stashed in the front seat. 

But the winner, disgraced British politician, Mark Oaten who lost his post as home affairs spokesman for the liberal democrat party after he was caught in an affair with a male prostitute.  His explanation for that, given, he believes he was driven to it by the physical onslaught which assailed him several months ago, the nightmare that is sudden baldness. 

Mark Oaten, today‘s “Worst Person in the World.” 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  When the overcooked singing competition known as “American Idol” had its mind-numbing finale last week and the souffle exploded.  That should have been it.  It should have been the last time I had to cover “Idol,” at least until next year, but that show as once again taken my captive, because in our No. 1 story on COUNTDOWN, an “Idol” fanatic sits in jail.  Just a leisurely evening in front of the tube 24-year-old Cory Favreau and his mother Jan Chagnon of Plattsburgh, New York, kicking back to watch the “Idol.”  But apparently the two disagreed over which finalist should win.  Miss Chagnon told her son that Katharine McPhee was going to have a successful career despite losing to Taylor Hicks.  That when Mr.  Favreau allegedly stood up, uttered a malicious comment, and struck his mom in the head with an object described as sharp, cross-shaped, and best of all, attached to a bicycle chain.  And surprise, surprise, court records say that both mother and son had been drinking alcohol.  Miss Chagnon was treated for a cut on her head and released her son, Mr. Fabro, was charged with assault.  He will remain in jail until he ponies up $5,000 in bail.  His next scheduled court date is June 5.  Maybe he‘ll sing while he‘s there. 

Their core issue that they were sitting there boozing it up while watching “American Idol,” that will apparently go unaddressed.  And as for the two finalists who unwittingly set this pathetic domestic dispute in motion, they were on the “Today” show talking about what it feels like to be at the top of the heap.  Actually, I have no earthly idea what they were talking about. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MATT LAUER, “TODAY” SHOW CO-HOST:  Just quickly sum up the last few days for me. 

KATHERINE MCPHEE, “AMERICAN IDOL” RUNNER UP:  Nonstop.

TALOR HICKS, “AMERICAN IDOL” WINNER:  Yeah, nonstop, whirlwind press tour.  You know, I mean, this has—it‘s been fun. 

LAUER:  You said to me a second ago I‘ve been prepping myself for a long time for this day.  And you don‘t just mean just during the “American Idol” series. 

HICKS:  Yeah, just, you know, been performing, and trying—and like Katharine as well, we‘ve been banging on doors for a long time and one of them opened and we‘re glad to be here. 

LAUER:  Can I say something that when the outcome was announced, Katharine, you took it so much in stride.  I would have been screaming “Why not me?”  and I would have been punching Taylor.  And you just sat there and smiled.  It was so gracious.  Were you dying a little bit on the inside? 

MCPHEE:  I really wasn‘t, to be honest.  I—when I made the top two I was really preparing myself to just be happy with being in the top two and knowing that I was going to get a record deal out of it and I was the most peaceful I had been for a long time because of the weeks coming up to that, leading up to that was so stressful. 

LAUER:  In the days since though, has there been a little bit of disappointment?  No?

MCPHEE:  The only time I got a little disappointed was like, right when we walked of stage and I saw a little girl crying.  She was upset that I had lost.  And it‘s just about, like  you know, not wanting to disappoint your fans.  You know they get so invested, you know, on this whole journey with you. 

LAUER:  You‘re going to go on tour this summer with the other finalists.  And experts in the industry are predicting that you guys will sell more tickets than some other very big names also going on tour.  I‘m talking about Bruce Springsteen, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Mariah Cary.  Most people think only Madonna will beat you guys in terms of ticket sales.  What does that tell you about the reach of this show?

HICKS:  I think it‘s the variety.  I think the variety of performers that go on tour and the contestants, this last—this past season, in season five.  There‘s everything that you can want in a show.  You‘ve got different styles, we all come from different styles of music.  And because there‘s so many different styles of music, I think that that will—I think that the public will love it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Got this one cuticle—joining me once more, the midday host of New York‘s classic rock station, Q104.3, the princess of “American Idol” news and my producer‘s enabler on this subject, Maria Milito. 

Welcome back, pal.

MARIA MILITO, Q104.3 MIDDAY HOST:  Thank you pal, for having me back. 

OLBERMANN:  Let me start with that interview.  Do these contestants get brainwashed into self publicizing machines or does it just happen naturally? 

MILITO:  I think it‘s part of the whole picture.  They have to be all, la, la, la, we‘re going on tour.  You know, we love this.  I mean, Katharine wants to be an actress.  So, I think it‘s all part of the big picture.  You know?  The big machine of now it‘s “American Idol” we‘re going on tour.  It‘s all sold out.  All their shows are sold out across the country. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, and bring your mom. 

MILITO:  And - bring your mom and bottle of booze. 

OLBERMANN:  The “American Idol” police blotter report.  Junior goes to jail after taking a whack at mom.  But if these two were really drinking and arguing over the program, shouldn‘t they both have been incarcerated just on principle? 

MILITO:  Yes, absolutely.  First of all, who drinks with their mother?  OK?  In the trailer and they start—and it gets violent?  I mean, that‘s crazy.  That‘s crazy.  I don‘t get that one at all. 

OLBERMANN:  Well, you put up a clear and convincing defense of the viewers of the program, so... 

MILITO:  Yeah, I know.  Well, you know. 

OLBERMANN:  Reportedly Mr. Cowell, here, has gone public chastising Prince because during his performance at the last show he chose not to sing with the other “Idol” finalists like the other performers did. 

MILITO:  Right. 

OLBERMANN:  In fact he walked off the stage right after he was finished.  Could that have been Prince‘s shot at salvaging some self-respect during that last show? 

MILITO:  Well, it could be, but it‘s Prince.  How could you have Prince to sing with contestants or to be interviewed by Ryan Seacrest?  You have Prince on the show, Prince is going to be Prince.  You know, I guess he needed to keep his integrity, so, he did what Prince would do.  I heard he showed up late.  He didn‘t want to sing with the contestants.  You know, would you?  I wouldn‘t.  So, he was Prince. 

OLBERMANN:  Are you saying—you‘re saying that David Hasselhoff ruined his own integrity I‘m going to have to ask you to step outside for a fistfight. 

MILITO:  No, But I have something to break to you.  The reason why they showed you David Hasselhoff and he was crying, Simon Cowell has a new reality show coming out, “America‘s Got Talent,” David Hasselhoff is one of the judges on NBC, June 21. 

OLBERMANN:  Yeah, I‘d be crying if I were one of the judges, too. 

MILITO:  No, I think he was probably crying thinking this is what‘s going to happen to his career now. 

OLBERMANN:  Oh great.  Speaking of what‘s going to happen to careers.

MILITO:  Yes. 

OLBERMANN:  I‘ve been—the stats have been forced on me on the singles that have already been released by “Idol” finalists.  Let‘s look at these, Chris Daughtry, 37th on the pop charts, with his version of Bon Jovi‘s “Wanted Dead or Alive.”  Taylor Hicks 53rd “Taking it to the Streets,” which of course was done much better by the Doobie Brothers.  Elliott Yamin 73rd with “Moody‘s Mood for love,” and Katharine McPhee 90th with “Think” and of course William Hung, 3,009th with that medley of “She Bangs” and “The Star Spangled Banner.” 

Are any of these guys actually going to creep into what we use to call rock ‘n‘ roll?

MILITO:  I would think Chris Daughtry is the only one.  I mean, Taylor Hicks will probably, because he is the “American Idol,” we‘ll hear him on adult contemporary radio stationing.  But I can definitely see Chris Daughtry being a rock ‘n‘ roller.  And that‘s a great version of “Wanted Dead or Alive” that he does.  And he has the rock ‘n‘ roll voice and a lot of people thought he was going to become the “American Idol,” so my mark is on him.  My bets are on him. 

OLBERMANN:  They‘re all marked now. 

MILITO:  Yeah, I know. 

OLBERMANN:  And ultimately, what do you get out of “American Idol” now that maybe we‘ve finally finished talking about it for the season? 

MILITO:  Well, I‘ll have to wait until next season.  Maybe, I think you‘re a little more interested in it, so... 

OLBERMANN:  No.

MILITO:  So my goal has been almost attained and we‘ll see what happens with the next Simon Cowell reality show. 

OLBERMANN:   No.

MILITO:  Yes.

OLBERMANN:  Maria Milito of New York‘s Q104.3, as always, great thanks. 

MILITO:  Thank you. 

OLBERMANN:  That‘s COUNTDOWN for this 1,127th day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Good night, and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with 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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