updated 7/13/2006 10:33:01 AM ET 2006-07-13T14:33:01

Guests: Katrina Szish, Dawn Yanek, Rick Ross, Jarrod Donoman, Caryn Stark, Mike Barnicle, Amanda Congdon, Pat Brown, Troy Duncan, Karen Ayres, Erin Runnion

JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST:  Right now in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, Scientology wars in Hollywood, as one of that town‘s most powerful actors battles his family and TV networks and “South Park” over his strange religion.  Then “Crackheads Gone Wild, gonzo filmmaker from middle America that may rake in millions by mocking drug addicts.  We‘re going to show you that shocking tape and talk to its creator.  Plus, Simon Cowell.  The “American Idol” hitmaker is in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY to judge—me!

Welcome to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  No passport required, no kissing babies‘ stomachs allowed.

Now, we have a packed show tonight, bringing you the news stories you‘re talking about.  Plus, inside a deadly crime spree gripping the nation‘s capital.  And also, how America‘s most expensive boondoggle just turned deadly.

But first, the story that Keith Olbermann‘s producers are making me do.  We begin tonight with Scientology wars, the religion that is gaining strength every day in Hollywood and influencing some of America‘s most powerful stars.  At the front of the battle line still is Tom Cruise, the actor who battled Brooke Shields, battled Matt Lauer, battled “South Park,” Comedy Central, Viacom and now, reportedly, and Katie Holmes‘s family.

Well, the “Mission Impossible” star may end up the top gun in his fight with his future in-laws, his battle against (INAUDIBLE) and Comedy Central—well, it‘s not going as well.  Cruise was the butt of many jokes in an episode of “South Park” that mocked Scientology and strongly implied the movie star was gay.  Insiders suggested that Cruise had pressured Viacom, who owned his last movie, to kill that Comedy Central episode.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Jesus Christ!  L. Ron?  L.  Ron!  It really is you!  Oh, this is the greatest day of my life!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I need to go to bed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Don‘t you understand, L. Ron, it‘s me, Tom Cruise!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I know who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, haven‘t I done well, L. Ron?  Haven‘t you enjoyed my acting?  Which film did you like best?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, I mean, you‘re not—you‘re not, like, as good as Leonardo DiCaprio, but you‘re OK, I guess.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I mean, you‘re not Gene Hackman of that guy that played Napoleon Dynamite (ph), but you‘re OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m nothing.  I‘m a failure in the eyes of the Prophet!  Ah!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey~!  Dude, I‘m sorry.  I didn‘t mean it!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Dude, this is my room.


SCARBOROUGH:  And of course, he spends the next 30 to 45 seconds asking Tom Cruise to come out of the closet.

That episode was pulled in March, though Cruise and Viacom obviously denied a blackmail threat from Cruise.  But fast-forward four months, and now we find the Emmy-nominated episode will once again see the light of day perhaps because “Mission Impossible 3” was a disappointment for Viacom.  Well, the mad geniuses who make “South Park” were threatening to quit over the perceived censorship.  Matt Stone, in fact, told “Variety,” quote, “If they hadn‘t put the episode back on the air, we would have had serious issues, and we wouldn‘t be doing anything with them.”

To talk about how Scientology wars are splitting Hollywood are Katrina Szish from “US Weekly,” and let‘s also bring in Dawn Yanek from “Life and Style,” also Rick Ross from the Rick Ross Institute, who‘s an expert on Scientology.

Katrina, let me start with you.  Why did Comedy Central cave in and ignore the wishes, supposedly, of Tom Cruise and the powers that be at the Scientology Institute?

KATRINA SZISH, “US WEEKLY”:  Well, I think the mention of the fact that “Mission Impossible 3” was not so great, the fact that right now, Tom is pretty much in hiding somewhere with Katie and Suri (ph), he is not really out there to get them.  It‘s got an Emmy nod, so why not get it back up there?  I think the fact that they have Emmy possibilities is enough to make Comedy Central enough to say, Forget you, Tom Cruise.

SCARBOROUGH:  So Tom Cruise, the man who has long been considered one of the most powerful players in Hollywood, is now losing clout?

SZISH:  I don‘t know if he‘s losing clout, but I think right now, his back happens to be turned.  And it‘s kind of like being in first or second grade.  If the teacher‘s back is turned, you‘re going to do all sorts of things behind the teachers back until they pay attention again.  So now‘s the time for Comedy Central to go crazy with the episode.

SCARBOROUGH:  And here‘s another clip of that “South Park” episode that mocks Cruise and Scientology.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thanks.  So first of all, I‘ve written that the brainwashed alien ghosts are actually from a galaxy called Newbenon (ph) and—I can‘t do this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Everybody, we‘re all looking for answers, you know?  We all want to understand who we are and where we come from, but sometimes we want to know the answers so badly that we believe just about anything.  I‘m not the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard.  And Scientology is just a big, fat global scam.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh!  We are going to sue you!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes!  You think you can say our religion is a lie? 

We‘ll sue you, buddy!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You told me it was a lie!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, now you‘re putting words in my mouth!  You are so sued!


SCARBOROUGH:  Katrina, you know, media types and a lot of TV networks and news organizations have long been scared of Scientology because they‘re so aggressive and will go out and sue anybody that crosses them.

SZISH:  Sure.

SCARBOROUGH:  But it looks like “South Park” has confronted Scientology and may have won.

SZISH:  Well, I don‘t know.  They kind of kowtowed to Scientology by pulling that episode.  And now, suddenly, that they‘re getting that Emmy nod, it‘s sort of, like, Oh, well, I guess if everybody sort of recognizes it as being a very award-worthy piece of comedy, then it is OK to put it out there more as art, as opposed to an insult to Scientology.  So I think they‘re changing the meaning of it a little bit, as opposed to going up against Scientology.

SCARBOROUGH:  And we asked the Church of Scientology to comment on the “South Park” episode when it was pulled, and this is what they had to say.  “As you won‘t learn the real story of Scientology by watching a cartoon, you should know that more than 30,000 people find out about Scientology for themselves every week.”

Dawn Yanek, though, Scientology‘s not only splitting Hollywood and TV networks, it‘s also reportedly splitting the Cruise family.  Talk about the battle between Katie Holmes‘s family—very Catholic, devout Catholic family—and Tom Cruise and their—and his wife-to-be.

DAWN YANEK, “LIFE AND STYLE”:  Right.  Well, what we‘ve heard at “Life and Style Weekly” is that Katie has finally agreed to have a wedding at the Scientology Celebrity Center International in Hollywood.  The only problem, of course, is that her parents, like you mentioned, are devout Catholics, and we have heard that they are refusing to attend the ceremony.  So, of course, that is a big problem.  We‘ve heard that Katie is heartbroken over this and that she loves Tom and she is ready to go ahead with this wedding.

SCARBOROUGH:  And Tom‘s reps, of course, deny this, but according to “Life and Style,” Katie‘s dad told a family friend, quote, “Why would we attend the wedding?  We‘re not welcome at the Scientology Center, and we‘re barely welcome in Tom‘s home.”

And one possible reason for the rip, Scientology.  The Holmeses are Catholic and don‘t like their daughter‘s interest in Tom‘s religion.  And here‘s what Katie had to say about Scientology.  “I‘ve looked into it myself, and I really like it and I think it‘s really wonderful.”

Dawn, the family is also reportedly not really happy about the fact that she‘s had this child out of wedlock (INAUDIBLE) because, again, this Florida family is very Catholic, very conservative.  And certainly, they‘re very disappointed, reportedly, in her daughter‘s lifestyle.

YANEK:  Right.  Those have been some of the issues.  Other issues that they‘ve reportedly had with Tom are the fact that maybe he‘s been a bit controlling.  He‘s kept her away from her family and from her old friends.  And also, there was the issue of the pre-nuptial agreement which Martin Holmes reportedly negotiated, which they finally came to a settlement on a few weeks ago.  So it seems like all signs are go for this wedding, and Katie is doing just what she wanted, she‘s marrying the man that she said she would marry when she was 17 years old.

SCARBOROUGH:  You know, Katrina, it seems so strange.  If you look at Tom Cruise‘s last wife, Nicole Kidman, she also agreed to go along with this Scientology business, a former Catholic.  She marries Cruise.  She—adopt children.  They have a divorce.  Now she gets married again, and she‘s reconnected with her Catholic roots, right?


YANEK:  And I think the interesting point is that Nicole reportedly had her marriage from Tom annulled, and she was allowed to do that by the Catholic church because she had been married through Scientology, and therefore, it was not officially recognized.

SZISH:  Absolutely.

YANEK:  And to add to that, what we heard at “Life and Style Weekly” is that Katie‘s parents are reportedly kind of happy about that because maybe some day, their daughter will be married in a Catholic ceremony down the road.

SCARBOROUGH:  And Rick Ross, tell us about the split between Catholicism and Scientology.  Does Scientology see Catholicism as a dangerous religion?

RICK ROSS, SCIENTOLOGY EXPERT:  No, I don‘t think, Joe, that they see it as a dangerous religion, but their theology is definitely very different from Catholicism.  Scientologists believe in reincarnation.  They believe in a kind of spaceship myth that was lampooned very effectively by “South Park,” which, by the way, they won a Peabody Award, also, in addition to their Emmy nomination.

I think that there‘s no question that you cannot believe in Catholicism and Scientology simultaneously because the belief systems contradict each other.  And I think the Holmes family realizes that, and they‘re concerned for their daughter.  They probably wanted a church wedding, as no doubt Nicole Kidman wanted and now has had.  And so really, I think the Holmes family seems to be pretty shaken up by all this.

But “South Park” I think got the last laugh.  And it‘s a lesson to Tom Cruise.  Don‘t go to war with a comedy show because they‘ll get the last word.  They beat him, plain and simple.  His stature is diminished, theirs has been raised substantially.  With a Peabody Award on the show...

SCARBOROUGH:  Yes, no doubt about it, it has been raised substantially.  And I would echo what you said, Don‘t go to war with a cartoon, especially if that cartoon is “South Park.”

Thanks a lot, Katrina.  Thank you, Dawn.  And thank you, Rick Ross. 

Greatly appreciate it.

Coming up next, shocking video, crack addicts paid to humiliate themselves, and people are buying the DVDs and the crackheads are now stars on Atlanta‘s streets.  It‘s called “Crackheads Gone Wild.”  It‘s here, and the guy that makes it says it‘s a public service.  We‘ll have that when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.

And later, superstar judge Simon Cowell has critiqued hundreds of wannabes on “American Idol.”  Now he gets his chance to judge—me!  You don‘t want to miss this one.  It ain‘t pretty.


SCARBOROUGH:  DVDs like “Bumfights” have become very popular in recent years.  They featured homeless alcoholics bribed with booze, performing stunts that included having their teeth yanked out with pliers.  Well, that morbid movie—that racked in $5 million in sales worldwide.  But “Bumfights” is just part of a bigger trend in raw reality street footage, with the newest production being a disturbing peek at the lives of crack addicts.  It‘s called “Crackheads Gone Wild,” and it shows people committing strange acts, having sex and dying for crack in Atlanta.  It‘s already sold more than 65,000 copies and brought in almost a quarter of a million dollars.

Some of the video is so graphic, we can‘t even show it to you here, but take a look at what we can show.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  “Crackheads Gone Wild.”  (INAUDIBLE)



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  “Crackheads Gone Wild!”

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, real life, real stories, man!  “Crackheads Gone Wild.”  Go and (INAUDIBLE) Damn!  Damn!


SCARBOROUGH:  And some of the crackheads are so well recognized in Atlanta that they‘re actually selling autographs in the street.  The producers say they want to show Americans the gravity of the crack epidemic, but to many, it looks like they‘re abusing addicts for a quick buck.

Jarrod Donoman is the co-executive producer of “Crackheads Gone Wild,” and Dr. Caryn Stark is a psychologist.

Jarrod, let me start by asking how you got people to participate in this video.  Did you pay them?

JARROD DONOMAN, “CRACKHEADS GONE WILD” PRODUCER:  Basically, the guys were only paid for the release of the film, so that we could use their likeness on the film.  That‘s the only time they were paid.

SCARBOROUGH:  And you claim that you did this to raise awareness of the crack epidemic, but I think most Americans watching this would say you guys just did it to exploit these people to make a quick buck.

DONOMAN:  No.  You see some of the humorous anecdotes that are, you know, laced in within the film, but if you go to the Web site and actually get the film, you‘ll see that they‘re basically telling a story.  We‘re doing nothing but telling a story, and it‘s real.  A lot of times, you see people see that are—they see the, you know, addicts on the street and they walk by them and they clutch their purses or whatever, but these are real people and they have problems.  And it‘s a real story that...

SCARBOROUGH:  Dr. Stark...


SCARBOROUGH:  Dr. Stark, it‘s hard to feel sorry for these crackheads on the street, these crack addicts.  But at the same time...

STARK:  The whole—the whole idea is...


SCARBOROUGH:  This is disturbing, isn‘t it.

STARK:  It‘s very disturbing, unconscionable and really takes advantage  It‘s laughing at their expense.  You‘re talking about people who are in an altered state.  Would somebody do a video of psychotics gone wild?  There‘s nothing funny about it.  They‘re people who are vulnerable, and they really can‘t defend themselves.  Even getting a release makes no sense in this situation.

SCARBOROUGH:  Would you agree with Jarrod that this film at least does show how bad the crack epidemic is in Atlanta and other places?

STARK:  Well, I‘m not sure because, really, it‘s making fun of it.  It‘s sort of like “Girls Gone Wild.”  I don‘t think that this is a good depiction.  You want a documentary, then you show what their lives are like, not...


DONOMAN:  I disagree, and I think you should go to the Web site, metzidvd.com (ph), and pick up this—pick up the movie because that‘s only a few minutes—that‘s only a few minutes—showing a few minutes of humorous...

STARK:  Yes, but what...


STARK:  What are you going to do next?  What are you going to do, autistic...

DONOMAN:  Basically, we—basically...

STARK:  ... autism gone wild?

DONOMAN:  No, you need to go...

STARK:  Psychotics gone wild?

DONOMAN:  You need to go and watch the film.  You need to go and watch the film and see...

STARK:  I don‘t need to watch...

DONOMAN:  ... how these addicts...

STARK:  ... the film to understand that people are being taken advantage of...

DONOMAN:  Oh, no, they‘re not being taken advantage of.

STARK:  ... that someone is not in the right frame of mind, you don‘t give them $5 and expect that you‘re going to get any kind of real...

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, let me ask...


SCARBOROUGH:  ... Jarrod, if this is a movie that‘s about helping crack addicts, are you giving a substantial portion of the profits to crack addicts?

DONOMAN:  What we are...

SCARBOROUGH:  Or to missions that are trying to help these people get off the streets?

STARK:  Good point.

DONOMAN:  Yes, the movie is just now becoming available in a wholesale form.  It‘s only available at the Web site right now, but once it goes through wholesale, yes, we are going to donate to a charitable, you know, cause.  But the movie...

SCARBOROUGH:  All right, well, let me help you out there because the Atlanta Union Mission is a not-for-profit organization, and it provides food and shelter and residential recovery programs for addicts and the homeless.  Their phone number‘s 404-367-2244.  Why don‘t you give them a call?  It says 408, it‘s actually 404.


SCARBOROUGH:  Why don‘t you give them a call When you start selling more.  I guess you guys have only made a quarter of a million on it so far.  And we‘d love to have a follow-up story on that.


SCARBOROUGH:  Jarrod, thank you for being with us.  Dr. Caryn Stark, thank you also for being with us.

And friends, again, if you want to help out, it‘s (404) 367-2244.

Coming up next, it‘s politicians in Washington doing it again, a list of so-called terror targets, like—I‘m not making it up—a popcorn farm, a horse festival and even a kangaroo conservation center.  Is that laughter I hear from a cave in Afghanistan?  Oh!

But before we go to break, a Scottish company has compiled the top five pick-up lines from around the world and translated them, of course.  And men, here they are as read by our studly staff.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you believe in love at first sight, or shall I walk by again?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Excuse me, I seem to have lost my phone number. 

Can I borrow yours?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You must be tired because you‘re running through my mind all day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Didn‘t it hurt when you fell from Heaven?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And number one: Was your father a thief?  Because he stole the stars from the sky and put them in your eyes.



SCARBOROUGH:  Tonight, French soccer star Zidane told the world that he was sorry for the head butt heard around the world.  Now, Zidane, the man considered the greatest soccer player in the last 25 years, told the world today that an Italian player provoked the head butt by saying horrible things about his ailing mother and younger sister.  Reports are the Italian player called his sister a prostitute and wished death on his ailing mother.

Now, Zidane refuses to apologize for his actions and suggests that he‘d do it again to defend his mother‘s honor.  For his part, the Italian soccer player denies he attacked the family, though audiotapes of the game suggest otherwise.  He also says Zidane is a hero whom he admires.

I guess it‘s just his mother and his sister that the punk can‘t stand.

Up next, one of the most corrupt public works projects in American history?  Well, maybe it is, but whatever it is, the “Big Dig” is now a crime scene, and we‘ll dig into that.  Plus, what do Bruce Springsteen and Joe Scarborough have in common?  Well, besides a love for New Jersey, we‘ll have to ask Simon Cowell to find out.  That‘s coming up in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.



SCARBOROUGH:  He doesn‘t hold back on “American Idol.”  Now, superstar judge Simon Cowell comes to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Tonight, his critique of my rock ‘n‘ roll act.  And it‘s ugly, friends.

And she‘s an Internet star who suddenly vanished from her RocketBoom Web cast.  Tonight, exclusives.  She‘s in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY to tell her side of the story. 

Welcome back to SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.  Those stories minutes away, but first D.C. is burning.  Two shocking stories coming quickly from the nation‘s capital tonight. 

The first, a wave of violent crime that‘s sweeping through the city. 

Thirteen people have been killed there since the beginning of the month.  And just last night, six people were robbed at gunpoint on the Washington Mall. 

It‘s gotten so bad the police chief declared that the city is in a crime emergency, not seen since the days of disgraced D.C. Mayor Marion Barry.  Talk about crackheads gone wild. 

Also coming from the nation‘s capital tonight, a mind-boggling report released by the Department of Homeland Security which details the department‘s list of top terror targets across America. 

NBC‘s Pete Williams has that story. 


PETE WILLIAMS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  At the Sweetwater Flea Market near Knoxville, Tennessee, describing the place where knickknack transactions as a potential terror target is a no-sale. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Now, as far as our market, we are, you know, one of the least places I would ever consider to be on any kind of a list. 

WILLIAMS:  But there it is, in a report on the Department of Homeland Security‘s National Asset Database, listed with Central Tennessee‘s Mule Day Parade. 

Part of the report reads like a back-road summer tour, Indiana‘s Amish Country Popcorn Farm, the Kangaroo Conservation Center in Georgia, and the Groundhog Zoo in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.  More than 77,000 listings, so all-inclusive, the inspector general says, that it‘s of questionable relevance in setting security priorities. 

The Senate‘s Homeland Security Committee chairman agrees. 

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS ®, MAINE:  That‘s what‘s discouraging about this list:  It does not seem to represent true targets. 

WILLIAMS (on camera):  Also on the list, a scattering of donut shops, ice cream parlors, even UPS stores, listed by cities and towns as important assets. 

(voice-over):  But states varied widely in what they considered valuable.  Some listed schools; some didn‘t.  Nebraska reported 200 more assets than California. 

Homeland Security says the list is only a starting point, a catalog of commercial and government facilities not used by itself to set security priorities or give out grant money. 

BOB STEPHAN, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY:  It‘s like a reference, an encyclopedia, a telephone book, 80,000 individual data points inside the database, not necessarily critical in and of themselves. 

WILLIAMS:  A database the government is now revising, but one the inspector general says has too big a menu to be effective.

Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.


SCARBOROUGH:  “Boston Herald” columnist Mike Barnicle is with us now. 

Mike, there is so much to talk about tonight, I just don‘t know where to start.  We‘re going to forget about the petting zoos, because that‘s a simple one.  But let‘s talk instead about what‘s going on in Washington, D.C., this crime spree. 

I thought that when Marion Barry was the mayor, and I lived in D.C., I mean, what‘s it say about our nation‘s capital that a tourist can‘t come there without fearing that he‘s going to have his throat slit and his girlfriend raped, which, of course, is exactly what happened last night?

MIKE BARNICLE, “THE BOSTON HERALD”:  Well, you know, Joe, as well as I do—and it‘s not just Washington, D.C., by the way—that it‘s one of the stories that, because we live in this politically correct culture of ours where many forms of media are reluctant to even put the ethnic origin of alleged perpetrators in the paper, referring to them as whatever, other than African-American, Hispanic or whatever, in the nation‘s capital, in Georgetown, we had—obviously, you referred to it—a young man whose throat was slit a few nights ago, a wonderful young man from abroad, as he was ushering his girlfriend home in a very elite section of Georgetown, outside the home of a multimillionaire developer. 

And the police commander in that district indicated in a community meeting—I believe Monday night—that people should be aware if they saw three or four groups of young black males hanging on the street corner at 2:00 or 2:30 in the morning in Georgetown, please be aware, please be alert.  He has been temporarily reassigned because of his language. 

The young man is dead.  He‘s going to be dead forever, but the political correct aspect of this is unnerving. 

We have in this country, Joe—and you know this better than anyone -

a huge underclass of basically young males—they define the future, Joe, in terms of an hour, two hours, or tomorrow night.  If you asked them, “What do you see in your future?”  They will define it by this weekend. 

And they know the likelihood is they‘re going to end up in jail or selling drugs or dealing.  They have no hope; it‘s a desperate situation.  We don‘t talk about it enough, and we certainly don‘t cover it enough in the public prints. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And how unbelievable, Mike, that this guy has been reassigned simply for identifying their race. 

BARNICLE:  Yes.  Yes, I...

SCARBOROUGH:  Let‘s go from that outrageous story to the Big Dig debacle in Boston.  Of course, there was a deadly tunnel collapse, which marks the latest black eye for what some are calling the Big Waste and which, as you know, it took 15 years to complete.  It cost $14.6 billion to taxpayers.  The project‘s been marred by hundreds of complaints about shoddy work.  More than a handful of arrests along the way. 

But this is a story to those of outside of Boston that seems to keep getting worse; what‘s going on up there? 

BARNICLE:  Well, you know, Joe, it‘s a story that can be played out again across the country, not in such a scope as it is here in Boston, but it‘s a story of government inefficiency, lack of accountability, lack of responsibility, bureaucracy run amok, a project that had its inception when Tip O‘Neill was speaker, and the initial cost was estimated to be $2, $3, perhaps $4 billion.  It‘s now almost $15 billion. 

There have been huge numbers of cost overruns.  The public, the taxpayers have not received anything back in proportion, in terms of what the contractors have charged, in terms of cost overruns.  There‘s been very little accountability, very little cost efficiency, in terms of this product, and people in Pensacola, Florida, Laramie, Wyoming, they are paying for it as much as people are in Boston and Worchester, Massachusetts.

Thank you very much, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  You‘re welcome, Mike.  Thank you.  Hey, thanks a lot, Mike, as always.  Greatly appreciate you being with us.

And Mike?



BARNICLE:  All the way, Joe. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All the way this year, buddy. 

BARNICLE:  Absolutely.

SCARBOROUGH:  From the Big Dig to an Internet personality whose following is big, the wildly popular videoblog RocketBoom features daily three-minute newscasts and used to feature host Amanda Congdon, that is until last week. 

Launched in a New York City apartment on a bare-bones budget, many are asking if sites like RocketBoom are the future of media.  Take a look. 


AMANDA CONGDON, FORMER HOST, ROCKETBOOM.COM:  Rsstroom reader.  You‘ve seen printed toilet paper before.  Now you can stay informed while on the pot.  Super fresh.  Because some things just can‘t wait. 


SCARBOROUGH:  After a public feud with her partner, who claimed she was not fired but left for her own reasons, Amanda Congdon suddenly vanished from the site, causing a big stir in the blogosphere.  Tonight, the SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY exclusive, for the first time since the break-up, Congdon is talking about what happened. 


CONGDON:  My partner decided he no longer wanted to be business partners with me.  He wanted me only to be the face of RocketBoom, and I said no way. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So for people that have not seen your videoblogs, explain what you have done, explain some of your biggest stories.  And also talk about why you think you have captured the imagination of the “New York Times” and others who have covered you. 

CONGDON:  Well, RocketBoom is a daily, Monday through Friday, three-minute videoblog about politics, Internet culture, you know, anything really that we found of interest online or offline.  And I think what people really liked about was kind of the candid nature of the show, the honest nature of the show, the interactivity with the audience, and just kind of the fun, quirkiness of it all. 

SCARBOROUGH:  How surprised are you at the attention that this little Internet dust-up has caused in mainstream media?

CONGDON:  You know, I‘m really shocked, because I basically made that video to communicate with my fans.  I had been off my show for 12 days and wanted to let them know, you know, “Hey, this is what‘s going on.”  I just wanted to tell them, and now it‘s this big news story. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Well, you were seen as the face, obviously, of RocketBoom.  Do you think, though, with you gone that it‘s going to fade away and die a slow death? 

CONGDON:  I hope and pray that it does not, because I‘m still, you know, 49 percent owner of RocketBoom.  So I‘m hoping that Andrew pulls something off. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So tell me what‘s next for you?  Are you going to be going to L.A., as has been rumored out there?  Are you going to stay in the news or do something different? 

CONGDON:  You know, I hope to go out to L.A.  Right now, I‘m kind of regrouping in Connecticut, trying to figure out what my options are, sorting through all the 2,000 e-mails or so.  But, yes, I think, whatever I do, I‘ll continue in the online space.  I‘ll continue videoblogging. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So what do videobloggers like yourself understand that these gigantic mainstream media machines, like myself, that employ me, don‘t get?  What do you get that we don‘t get? 

CONGDON:  How to make friends with my audience. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And how do you make friends with your audience?  I‘m writing these notes down, by the way.  Go ahead.  We all want friends.  Help me out here, Amanda. 

CONGDON:  I think it‘s just about being direct.  The fact that they can leave comments and they can actually inform the show; 25 percent of RocketBoom content was from viewer-submitted stories.  So the fact that there was just kind of a daily communication with the viewers, and there was also a very personal feel to RocketBoom, I think that‘s what really launched us. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thank you so much, Amanda. 

CONGDON:  Thank you, Joe.

SCARBOROUGH:  Greatly appreciate you being here, and good luck in the future.  We‘re going to be following your story. 

CONGDON:  Thank you.  Oh, great. 


SCARBOROUGH:  And Amanda‘s partner in RocketBoom has posted a statement on the site saying, in part, quote, “It‘s easy to recreate the same thing.  The challenge here is to the next.”

We found that interesting, because look at this:  It‘s Amanda Congdon on the left and her brand-new replacement, Joanne Colan, who started today, on the right.  Now, that‘s what we would call the definition of recreating the same thing. 

Asked to comment on the new host, Amanda told us it looks like she‘ll be a great, new face.  For more on my interview with Amanda Congdon, you can log on to Joe@MSNBC.com and check it out. 

Up next, “Joe‘s Justice.”  Tonight, the search for the killer of this real estate agent who was found murdered in a model home she was trying to sell. 

But first, annual fiction writing contest for bad writing at San Jose State University brought out some entries that had judges scratching their heads.  When it was all over, a retired mechanical engineer took home the top prize with this riveting passage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you‘ve had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean. 



SCARBOROUGH:  Now it‘s time for tonight‘s “Joe‘s Justice.”  All this week, at this time, we‘re demanding answers about our criminal justice system and focusing on unsolved cases where you can make a difference. 

Victims right advocate Erin Runnion is here again.  And, of course, her little daughter, Samantha, was abducted and killed in July 2002. 

Tonight, a fugitive is on the run, eluding multiple law enforcement agencies.  And tonight, he could be in your town!

Sweet-talking Brandon Theodore James is wanted on two warrants, and we need to find him.  He moves into small towns in Middle America.  He hunts for vulnerable single moms.  Then, he preys on their children.  Then, before the warrants are filed, he moves onto his next town and his next target. 

Along with Erin Runnion, here to help us track down this monster, we‘ve got Detective Troy Duncan.  He‘s the lead investigator in the case.  And criminal profiler Pat Brown. 

Pat, let me begin with you.  There are—and, you know, it‘s just a sad reality, but there creeps like this all over America that will actually go into churches, go into other places where young children are, to purposely target kids, even if it means trying to pick up on their vulnerable moms first.  Tell us about it.

PAT BROWN, CRIMINAL PROFILER:  Well, that‘s a great way to get to the kids, Joe.  I mean, you go to a church.  You attend their single events.  You‘ve got women who have been divorced, and have young children, and they want to meet nice men, so they go to their churches to meet them, instead of going to bars, and then they meet this nice man who‘s also going to church.

And they strike up that relationship.  And, of course, that‘s his plan.  And here‘s a good way for women—I think women need to know a self-defense technique, and it‘s pretty simple.  When you meet a man, there‘s nothing wrong with dating him.  Date him for a couple of years.  Let him live in his house; you live in yours.  Don‘t move him into your house, and don‘t let him have any alone time with your children.

What‘s interesting is, if he‘s a pedophile, he‘s going to dump you real quick. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Erin, how quickly do you, as a parent, through all of the things that you‘re doing and all the work that you‘ve done over the past several years, how does a mother find out, or how does a church member find out who they can trust and who they can‘t trust with their kids, or do you just not trust anybody with your children, unless you‘ve known them for five, 10 years? 

RUNNION:  Well, I think it‘s really important that parents do recognize that, when they go to church, or their, you know, meeting friends in their neighborhood, just because somebody‘s a nice guy doesn‘t mean you can trust them to be alone with your child. 

It‘s very simple, but it takes a lot to get that out there, because this is a very common M.O. for child predators.  They volunteer for children‘s organizations; they talk with the churches; and they get involved with kids so that they can scout out the most vulnerable ones. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And here‘s some things we know about James.  He worked for a concrete ready mix company.  He does move into small towns.  He then joins local churches, and he befriends single moms to be with their children. 

Let me bring you in, Detective Troy Duncan.  Talk about this guy, and the investigation, and what leads you may have on him.  Where was he last spotted? 

DETECTIVE TROY DUNCAN, SIOUX FALL CITY:  Well, he was last spotted in our community of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in March of 2004, when we began our investigation on him.  When we got around to the point of making contact with Mr. James, he had fled our community. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Talk about his M.O.  Chances are good he‘s in a new community.  What‘s he doing right now? 

DUNCAN:  He‘s looking for some type of an in to associate with young men, ages 10 to 15, whether it be a church or a social group of some sort.  He likes to befriend them.  He likes to provide them a place to hang out, take them places, buy them things, take them camping, at which time he can find sort through his kids, find one or two that he can perpetrate his crime upon, and then he tends to focus on them, and move in on them, and start committing his sexual acts. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, again, his focus is on boys, young boys, 10 to 15.  Tell us, in closing, Detective, what we can do, what Americans watching tonight can do, to help bring this guy to justice?

DUNCAN:  Well, I think we‘re doing it.  We‘re getting his name out there; we‘re getting his face out there.  Be on the lookout for him.  He could be anywhere in the United States, in your community. 

Wherever he is going, he‘s seeking to sexually perpetrate his crime against young boys.  Be on the lookout for him.  If you believe you see him or someone who looks like him, call our number.  Call our Crime Stoppers number or report it to your local law enforcement.  Call 1-800-CRIME-TV.

SCARBOROUGH:  And there it is on the screen, 605-367-7007.  Thank you so much, Detective Duncan.  We appreciate you being with us.  Pat Brown and Erin Runnion, stay with us.  We‘ll be right back. 

“Joe‘s Justice” continues in a minute with a chilling murder mystery in Texas.  A real estate agent found dead in a home she was showing.


SCARBOROUGH:  Welcome back to “Joe‘s Justice.” 

Tonight, a murder mystery in Texas, where a real estate agent is found fatally stabbed 27 times in a model home she was showing.  Now, police say that Sarah Anne Walker still had on her jewelry, and her purse was nearby untouched. 

The divorced mother of two recently started dating on MillionaireMatch.com.  Who targeted Sarah Anne Walker, and why?  Here now is Karen Ayres, a reporter from the “Dallas Morning News.”  And still with us, we‘ve got Erin Runnion and Pat Brown.

Now, let me start with you, Karen.  Talk about this dating service. 

Any connection there that police suspect?

KAREN AYRES, “DALLAS MORNING NEWS”:  Well, police are looking into several online postings that she made, including the posting on MillionaireMatch.com.  It‘s among several things they‘re looking at, at this point. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Any progress on the investigation? 

AYRES:  Well, we didn‘t hear much from police today.  We know that they‘ve spent the week interviewing all sorts of people that Sarah knew, friends, co-workers, family members. 

I spent the day out in the community talking to residents who understandably are really upset about this.  One woman told me that she‘s not letting her kids out of the house until they find out who did this. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Pat, she was stabbed 27 times.  Often we hear that that means that the victim knew the assailant.  You don‘t agree with that, do you? 

BROWN:  Well, it‘s kind of a myth.  It can mean that.  In other words, if somebody knew where she was, somebody she had an issue with—it could be an ex-husband; it could be a boyfriend or a new friend from the ‘net.  And he went out there because had wanted to do something to her or have a confrontation with her, and he got angry and stabbed her because he was very angry, yes, you have a lot of stabbing. 

But on the other hand, you could have somebody who wandered in there or targeted her, a stalker-type, a robber, a rapist, a possible serial killer, and when they approached her, maybe they thought they would have control of the scene, and then this woman had the gall to fight back or run, and that made them angry, and then they ran after her, and in their anger stabbed a lot. 

Some serial killers will stab somebody 70 times because the woman made them mad.  So you really can‘t tell from the stab wounds what that means exactly. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Erin, of course, the funeral is coming up.  The family is devastated.  What do you tell them tonight? 

RUNNION:  Well, you know, I‘ve been really impressed with the brother and sister speaking out, and talking about Sarah Walker, and letting people know what she was like.  She was a mother of two boys. 

I know that the police interviewed her ex-husband for a couple of hours today, and I think that they‘re doing a really good job.  All they can do is let people know who she was, and hopefully the community will come out for that funeral, and support the family, and help solve this case. 

SCARBOROUGH:  And, Karen, you spoke today with the sister.  What did she say? 

AYRES:  Well, obviously, they‘re devastated.  I mean, they‘ve all said they have absolutely no idea who did this.  Her sister doesn‘t believe she was seeing anyone before she was killed, but they also said she was a very private person about her personal affairs.  So the funeral is tomorrow. 

SCARBOROUGH:  All right.  Thank you so much, Karen.  Thank you, Pat. 

Thank you, Erin.  And, Karen, we‘ll invite you back to update us later on. 

And this program note:  Coming up next, an MSNBC special, “Wasteland:

The Innocent Victims of Meth.”

But before we go, one more thing tonight.  “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell may be one of the toughest guys to please, but he does a good thing when he sees it.  He sat down with MSNBC‘s Rita Cosby, who asked him to judge another rocking musical act, me.  Take a look.


SCARBOROUGH (singing):  I still believe in a place called America...

RITA COSBY, HOST:  Hey, Simon, what do you think of Joe Scarborough? 


COSBY:  That was him. 

COWELL:  Not bad at all, Rita. 

COSBY:  What‘s the critique?  Good side, bad side. 

COWELL:  He sounded like Bruce Springsteen. 

COSBY:  What do you think of Joe‘s guitar playing?  He was rallying the crowd, and he was waving his arm up.  Seemed like he‘s got a lot of performing potential. 

COWELL:  He sounds to me like the crowd enjoyed what he was doing.  Everything all right.  Sounded OK until the end part.  What was he screaming at the end? 

COSBY:  He‘s saying, “I still believe in America.” 

COWELL:  OK, well, fine.  You know what?  I‘m going to give that one a nine out of 10, actually, Rita. 


SCARBOROUGH:  Nine out of 10, baby, that‘s big.  Hey, we‘re going to have a lot more of Rita‘s interview with Simon Cowell tomorrow night here on SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY, including the real deal with Paula Abdul.  You‘re not going to want to miss it, tomorrow.

Hey, that‘s all the time we have for tonight.  An MSNBC special is coming up, “Wasteland: The Innocent Victims of Meth.”  That‘s starting right now, but we‘ll see you tomorrow night in SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.



Copy: Content and programming copyright 2006 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2006 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.


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