Guests: John Dean, Tom O‘Neil
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The other secret shoe drops. Valerie Plame Wilson sues, sues the vice president, sues Scooter Libby, sues Karl Rove for intentional and malicious exposure of her CIA identity.
Inside the Plame lawsuit, the Wilsons say they also hope to uncover the truth surrounding the leak and ensure all relevant public officials are held accountable.
The legal implications with John Dean, the political implications with Lawrence O‘Donnell.
The implications could not be bigger in the Middle East. Israel hits Beirut International Airport again. Nothing is safe in Lebanon, the Israelis say, until two captured Israeli soldiers are freed. They are not calling it war, but it is.
Are you safe in the air? Never mind snakes on a plane.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mice were running around on the floor, and that‘s when one had ran down one of the mechanic‘s arms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mice, as many as 1,000, mice, who eat insulation and wires and could start a fire in midair.
This is not the solution, just a typical newscasty kind of gross-out.
He could do both parts of that catfood commercial song duet by himself.
Speaking of multiple faces, Angelina Jolie to star in a movie produced by the company founded by Brad Pitt and his ex-wife, Jennifer Aniston, and she‘ll be playing a woman who stole another woman‘s husband. Stay classy, Angelina.
All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.
On the very eve of the three-year anniversary of the Robert Novak column that started the whole thing, the vice president of the United States, his former chief deputy, and the so-called brain of the president of the United States have been sued by Valerie Plame and Ambassador Joe Wilson.
Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, and besides Dick Cheney, Scooter Libby, and Karl Rove, the Wilsons are suing 10 other unnamed administration figures, accusing that baker‘s dozen of conspiring to destroy Valerie Plame‘s CIA career and of jeopardizing the safety of her and her family.
In a moment, a look at the legal merits of the case with Nixon White House counsel John Dean.
But first, the details, the Wilsons filing suit today in federal court demanding a jury trial and unspecified compensatory damages. They accuse the defendants of having, among other things, quote, “reached an agreement to discredit, punish and seek revenge against the plaintiffs. Said agreement was motivated by an invidiously discriminatory animus towards those who had publicly criticized the administration‘s stated justifications for going to war with Iraq, the defendants embarking,” charged the Wilsons, “on an anonymous whispering campaign designed to discredit and injure the plaintiffs and to deter other critics from publicly speaking out.”
Among the injuries claimed by the Wilsons, that they fear for their safety and the safety of their children because the disclosure of Ms. Plame‘s covert CIA status has made all of them a target for those who bear hostility to the United States.
That the filing comes on this eve of the third anniversary of Robert Novak‘s column, which first outed Ms. Plame, is not a coincidence. Legally, Ms. Plame had three years after the alleged violation to file suit under the Privacy Act, the White House and Mr. Libby making no comment on the lawsuit, Mr. Rove‘s spokesman issuing this statement this afternoon, quote, “It is clear that the allegations are absolutely and utterly without merit. We may comment further when we‘ve had a chance to review the complaint.”
As promised, Nixon White House counsel John Dean has been kind enough to join us now from Washington, where he‘s just finished signing copies of his remarkable new book, “Conservatives Without Conscience.”
John, good evening.
JOHN DEAN, AUTHOR, “CONSERVATIVES WITHOUT CONSCIENCE”: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: We‘ve talked about this case many times, on the air and off, and each time, you‘ve said, Ask the ambassador if he and his wife are suing. Was this the logical next step for the Wilsons?
DEAN: It certainly was, in my estimation. As you know, I‘ve been writing about this for several years. And about three years ago, I first recommended and thought that that was the only way they really would ever get to the bottom of it. So they‘ve now started that process.
OLBERMANN: Do they have a strong case? Might they win? The classic example of the criminal case versus the civil case is obviously O.J. Simpson. Is this a different version of the same kind of parallel?
DEAN: I read the 23-page complaint. It‘s a—it is a strong case. What they‘ve done is parallel very much of the criminal case. They‘re drawing on the information that the criminal investigation has uncovered. That bolsters the case considerably.
It‘s an unusual action. It‘s called a Bevins lawsuit, under the Bevins rule, which is a 1971 Supreme Court holding that held some DEA or—actually, they were Bureau of Narcotics agents, guilty for—or responsible civilly for violating the constitutional rights of people when they arrested them with a drug raid.
OLBERMANN: The statement on the Wilsons‘ Web site that is seeking donations for their legal case included mentions that they hope to hold government officials accountable by filing this suit and “uncover the truth about the leak.” That last part is a direct quote. Is the lawsuit likely to do either of those things? Will we learn something here that we wouldn‘t have learned otherwise?
DEAN: It‘s possible. I think the immediate action‘s going to be that someone like Scooter Libby is going to go into the courtroom and file for a stay of the action until his own criminal proceeding is resolved. I think the prosecutor will not be very happy with this, because it could have many of his witnesses being subject to civil depositions, raising the possibility for conflicting statements and all kinds of problems.
So there‘s a very high probability this case could be stayed very early. But yet, they—the Wilsons may be able to negotiate something where they can proceed with some of the discovery.
OLBERMANN: Is this perhaps why there was such an aggressive effort to get that Scooter Libby legal defense fund together with such high-priced dinners and such?
DEAN: Well, I think that‘s going to be consumed by the criminal action. Criminal lawyers, the best in this city, are not inexpensive. So I think that was the primary drill there, to take care of the criminal problems.
OLBERMANN: Out of left field, this question, Joe Wilson e-mailed me today about this just before the story broke. And he included the lengthy statement from himself and his wife about the comments this week from Robert Novak in justifying his story and explaining what happened with him.
Let me read three sentences of the Wilson-Plame statement. “Robert Novak, some other commentators and the administration continue to try to completely distort the role that Valerie Wilson played with respect to Ambassador Wilson‘s trip to Niger. The CIA set up a meeting to respond to the vice president‘s inquiry” about Niger. “Another CIA official, not Valerie Wilson, suggested to Valerie Wilson‘s supervisor that the ambassador attend that meeting.”
John, if every reporter who got anything wrong got sued, all the newspapers would be blank, the radio stations would be silent, the TV stations would be test patterns. But if the Wilsons are charging, if not a conspiracy, then an agreement to do all this, to deliberately damage them, could they have included Robert Novak in this suit?
DEAN: I doubt that, because that would require a different type of action. As I say, they‘ve brought a very narrow action, what they call a Bevins lawsuit. This is a very specialized one, where a government official, acting in his individual capacity under the color of law, takes action that is beyond the scope of the Constitution or contrary to the Constitution.
They actually are seeking damages under the First Amendment, obviously for Wilson being punished for making his statement. They‘re seeking action under the Fifth Amendment, the due process clause, which took away her employment, if you will, which interfered with her employment. So these are broad constitutional actions for which there‘s a civil remedy.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, would the case, would the lawsuit here have been feasible or imaginable without essentially the legwork done on the Wilsons‘ behalf by the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald?
DEAN: It would have been possible, but not as likely. In fact, the complaint itself tracks the indictment of Scooter Libby and draws heavily on the Fitzpatrick—or Fitzgerald material. So that is a key to the way they‘re going to pursue this lawsuit. These are issues—this makes it a lot easier for them, and that shows the strength of their lawsuit, because if the government‘s case is good, and it certainly appears to be good, their evidence is—material that was presented to the grand jury, it has now been made public, it makes for a very powerful lawsuit.
OLBERMANN: John Dean, former White House counsel under Richard Nixon, author of the new book, as it says over his shoulder, “Conservatives Without Conscience.” As always, sir, great thanks for joining us tonight.
DEAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: To the political side of the Plame lawsuit. And let‘s call in a political analyst Lawrence O‘Donnell, of course, a contributor to the blog HuffingtonPost.com.
Lawrence, good evening to you.
LAWRENCE O‘DONNELL, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to be here, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Picking up where I left off with John, is winning even the point here? Would not the real victory, perhaps, for the Wilsons come simply in putting the White House on trial, quite literally having their day in court at the White House‘s expense?
O‘DONNELL: I think winning better not be the point, because the one quick disagreement I have with John Dean is, I think this is a very weak case. I wrote a book about a civil rights case. I don‘t recognize any of the applications of civil rights law that they‘re using in this complaint. Bevins has entirely to do with law enforcement officials, guys with badges and guns.
That‘s not what‘s involved here. I think they‘re going to have a lot of trouble keeping this case in court. I think the vice president‘s side of the case has a very, very strong case in going for dismissal.
If they don‘t get a dismissal, and if you can keep this case alive into discovery, then the Wilsons will have, in effect, won, because they can then do, as John Dean said, depositions, putting the vice president under oath for a civil deposition, Libby under oath for a civil deposition, and Rove under oath for civil depositions, along with anyone else they can drag into this thing as they‘re proceeding.
But they do have to get by a high hurdle on getting this case dismissed. It is a political piece of litigation, and you know that by reading the first paragraph of the complaint, Keith. This is not a legalistic document. The first paragraph quotes the first President Bush saying, in 1999, “We need more protection for the methods we use to gather intelligence and more protection for our sources, particularly our human sources, people that are risking their lives for their country.”
That‘s what Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame want the country to think about. They want the country to think about what the first President Bush was thinking about when he was talking about the urgency and the importance with which we must attach to protecting the secrecy of CIA human resources.
And that‘s really the point that they‘re trying to get across here. It‘s a civil lawsuit to collect damages that the Wilsons in the lawsuit say they don‘t even want to keep. They‘ve established a fund that they‘re—if they did win any damages, they would hand all the money over to a fund, which would then be used to help other people who find themselves in government whistleblower hot spots.
OLBERMANN: What could be aired publicly in a case like this, and if it does not get dismissed, that would not be coming up in the prosecution of Scooter Libby? What would you be looking for, and what would be damaging to the White House?
O‘DONNELL: Well, civil depositions have a very wide-ranging legal capacity. Criminal cross-examination and criminal examination of witnesses in the courtrooms is extremely constrained compared to civil depositions. And, you know, you get to use hearsay in civil cases in certain kinds of ways that you don‘t in criminal cases.
But this goes two ways. The Wilsons would be subject to depositions also. And I think Joe Wilson is in particularly vulnerable territories in some of the areas that are raised in this case. For example, the notion that they fear for their lives as a result of these disclosures. Well, none of us knew what Valerie Plame looked like before the Wilsons decided to make Valerie Plame available for photographers. And they did that after, apparently, fearing for their lives, if you were to read this complaint.
In a deposition under oath, Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame are going to have some trouble with the issue of fearing for their lives and going to the White House correspondents dinner on TV, being photographed publicly today in the Senate.
There‘s some very strange things on the Wilsons‘ side of it that don‘t line up perfectly with the way this complaint lines up. So the depositions go both ways, and I think they will have—both sides will have a real tough time in these depositions.
OLBERMANN: Pure politics on this, if you‘re writing the Republican talking points memo, how do you combat this other than by personally attacking the Wilsons, which by its very definition would seem only to buttress the case they‘re trying to make that they‘ve already been personally attacked?
O‘DONNELL: Well, the line that‘s going out there already, and the Republican reaction to this, is, here are the Wilsons, you know, with this crazy lawsuit that‘s a frivolous lawsuit, and they‘re just looking for attention. They just can‘t stand not having attention. And you just—that‘s the angle they‘ve been playing so far.
This lawsuit is going to be very quiet for a long time. I mean, I think John Dean‘s right about Libby‘s ability to get this lawsuit, in effect, deferred while his criminal case is proceeding. So we‘re not going to hear much more about this lawsuit for a while, I think.
OLBERMANN: Political analyst, Huffington Post contributor, Lawrence O‘Donnell. As always, great thanks for joining us tonight.
O‘DONNELL: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: This programming note, Ambassador Wilson will be with us next week here on COUNTDOWN to discuss the lawsuit and related matters. Tomorrow night, we‘ll be joined by one of the lawyers representing the Wilsons in the action, the noted constitutional law scholar Irwin Chemeransky (ph) of Duke Law School.
COUNTDOWN airing every night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, 9:00 Pacific.
Also tonight here, crisis in the Middle East. Israel and Lebanon launching deadly attacks against each other. No one is calling it war, but that may be a matter of mere semantics.
And images of our war dead, coffins draped with American flags. Is it fair to use those images in political ads? Republicans say the Democrats have crossed the line. Democrats say the Republicans erased the line years ago.
You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: The words could not be more ominous tonight. Nothing is safe, a brigadier general in Israel warning Lebanon.
Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, Israel launching twin attacks against Beirut International Airport, in an attempt to rein in Hezbollah militants, its most intense air assault there in 20 years, the Lebanese government pleading for a ceasefire, but guerrilla fighters from Hezbollah are still launching rockets at Israeli towns, including that country‘s third-largest city, Haifa, sending not only the entire Middle East but possibly the entire Bush doctrine on foreign policy into chaos.
Tonight, our correspondent Martin Fletcher is monitoring the escalating conflict in the town of Nahariya (ph) on the border between Israel and Lebanon. Martin?
MARTIN FLETCHER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Keith, Hezbollah is firing rockets deeper and deeper into Israel. In fact, one fell just a few yards away here, from here in Nahariya, while Israel‘s attacking more and more targets in Lebanon.
As for calls for a ceasefire, both sides say no.
(voice-over): The violence escalated all day. Early this morning, Israel bombed Beirut‘s airport, tearing up the runways. All flights diverted to Cypress.
Then Hezbollah fired volleys of Katyusha rockets at Nahariya on Israel‘s coast. One rocket hit a woman sipping coffee on her balcony. She died instantly.
Israel shot back from sea, air, and land, hitting more than 100 targets, both Hezbollah buildings, like its TV station in Beirut, and infrastructures like roads, bridges, as well as two Lebanese army bases.
Lebanon‘s information minister said Lebanon requests an immediate and complete ceasefire. No one listened.
Most of the damage in Lebanon was done by Israeli artillery.
(on camera): They‘re firing shells at the rate of at least one a minute. The range of these shells more than 80 miles, firing deep inside Lebanon. The Israelis say they‘re trying hard to avoid civilian casualties.
(voice-over): But Lebanese casualties have been high in the two days of fighting, 12 dead in just one family. It isn‘t clear how many Hezbollah fighters have died.
Later, Israel threatened to hit Hezbollah targets in Beirut. Residents began to run away. So Hezbollah retaliated by firing rockets at Haifa, Israel‘s third-largest town. At least one rocket hit, doing little damage.
But in many parts of northern Israel, there was serious damage.
Residents were told to sleep in the bomb shelters.
As for the two Israeli soldiers whose kidnapping sparked this crisis...
MARK REGEV, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN: We‘re concerned that they could be taken to Iran.
FLETCHER: But still, Israel insists it will not take part in any negotiations to free the prisoners.
And tonight Israel hit the airport again, setting fuel tanks ablaze.
(on camera): Israeli helicopters dropped thousands of leaflets over south Beirut tonight, telling residents who live near Hezbollah leaders to leave their homes. Earlier, Israeli military sources said Israel would now start trying to kill Hezbollah leaders, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Martin Fletcher along the Israel-Lebanon border. Great thanks.
Our own war dead at the center of a political firestorm here, Democrats using images of flag-draped coffins in a new advertisement, Republicans crying foul, and in doing so, possibly forgetting their own ads using 9/11 and military images.
And a whistleblower report, the clear and present danger of mice on a plane. More than a hygiene concern. Could rodents actually bring planes down?
Details ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: July 13 was the birthday of Dave Garroway. He was, in brief, the founding father of morning television, the first host—his official title was communicator—of the “TODAY” show, from 1952 through 1961. This brief mention cannot do his skills justice. He was able to make co-hosting a television news show with a monkey seem honorable, and he signed off his programs with his right hand held high in a tradition he ascribed to the tribes of Africa, as he quietly said the simple word, “Peace.”
On that note, let‘s play Oddball.
Don‘t know if Dave could have made this seem honorable, but we‘ll try.
It‘s a guy dressed as a deer scaring the crap out of his sleeping friend.
Seems honorable enough.
Yes, just another in a series of stuff we found on the Internets, part of a growing trend wherein morons scare the bejesus out of their moronic friends, family, and co-workers. Videotape had been uploaded to the inter-Web for all to enjoy.
Because really, the only thing better than giving your good friend a heart attack with the old Linda Blair in the maze trick is publicly humiliating them afterwards. However, due to inherent danger, possible heart conditions, common decency, stuff like that, Oddball only kind of encourages this kind of behavior.
Oh, what great pals these people are.
Also tonight, something you should be scared of, but will probably laugh at, at first. Not snakes on a plane, but mice. Well, that‘s not mice. It‘s not Hollywood make-believe. And incredibly, it could be a matter of life and death.
From mice to a catfight, first Ms. Jolie steals Jennifer Aniston‘s man. Now she steals Jennifer Aniston‘s movie role. Another story my producers are forcing me to cover.
But first, here are COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.
Number three, Ranger the police dog. It‘s an all-animal show tonight. Ever wonder what kind of promotion a police dog aspires to? His handler left Ranger alone in a pickup truck, and Ranger somehow slipped the idling vehicle into gear and knocked down an innocent bystander with the car.
Number two, Jim Eriotes of the minor league baseball team the Sioux Falls Canaries. He batted leadoff against St. Joe Wednesday night, struck out swinging on four pitches. It‘s notable because Mr. Eriotes is 83 years old, the oldest man ever to play pro ball. He had been a minor league outfielder so long ago that he would have been playing while Joe DiMaggio was still playing, and he‘s almost old enough to have seen Roger Clemens make his debut.
Number one, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. He has indicted two Illinois men for reselling expired salad dressing, pretty much proving the old joke that a DA can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.
OLBERMANN: Republicans have used images of 9/11 in each campaign advertising year since 9/11. A president ran for re-election with active servicemen standing behind him at every other turn. A current advertisement by the rabidly right-wing “NewsMax” is offering U.S. Military desert camouflage hats featuring photos of the hats being worn by laughing 20-something models on a beach somewhere and of the hats being worn by grim-faced 20-something military grunts standing in harm see way somewhere. So in our third story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, there are a lot of people living in a lot of glass houses on the question of what‘s appropriate or inappropriate in political ads. That never stopped the rock throwing before and it‘s not stopping it now.
BILL CLINTON, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.
OLBERMANN: That is the latest ad from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Of course, we would not have even known it existed but for the House republicans who went before TV cameras today armed with helpful diagrams to express their outrage over the use of the images of casualties from the war in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GEOFF DAVIS ®, KENTUCKY: This ad, that you can see the picture of the coffins for your right, the memorials that was put up by troops in theater, is the most tasteless thing that I have seen in my adult life.
REP. ROB SIMMONS ®, CONNECTICUT: It‘s disgusting. The democrats should get it off the air and they should apologize.
REP. PHIL ENGLISH ®, PENNSYLVANIA: This political stunt, the crassest that I have ever seen in my years of politics has brought American politics, in my view, to a new low.
REP. TOM REYNOLDS ®, NEW YORK: Well, it takes a galling level of smug self-righteousness for Rahm Emanuel to invoke ore honored dead one minute and then put their coffins in an ad the next.
REP. PATRICK MCHENRY ®, NORTH CAROLINA: It‘s not about winning the war, it‘s about winning elections for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: House republicans did not stop at a news conference. Representative Tom Cole introduced a resolution calling for Congress to condemn the use of military caskets or funerals for partisan political and fund-raising purposes. Turning us not to NBC‘s Capitol Hill reporter, Chip Reid at the Washington bureau.
Good evening, Chip.
CHIP REID, NBC CAPITOL HILL NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So, what was the point of the republican backlash? Did all they do, really here is draw attention to an obscure campaign ad that would not have received any attention if they‘d kept quiet here? Did they get played by the democrats in that old familiar fashion?
REID: Well, in one sense they did, because certainly you are absolutely right, that this ad got vastly more time on the air than it ever would have gotten otherwise. And if democrats think it‘s an effective ad, well then they are certainly are getting a big bang for their dollar. But in another sense the republicans know what they‘re doing. This is the Karl Rove strategy. They are running on the war. They call it the war on terror, but of course that includes, to a large degree, the war in Iraq.
But to tell you how much they think or at least are deluding themselves into believing, I don‘t know which it is, the war is going to help them. Dennis Hastert today said that he believes they are going to gain seats in November and one of the big reasons for that is because of how well things are go in Iraq. Now, this plays into their motivate the base, whip up the base strategy here, and they believe thinks exactly the kind of thing that gets the base fired up and may even grow the base, because certainly there have been defections by military families kind of fed up with what‘s going on in Iraq. But they believe this is the kind of thing that they respond to.
OLBERMANN: Let me get your reaction to something that the House majority leader, Mr. Boehner, said in his daily briefing. A reporter asked what the difference was between democrats using images from Iraq in a political campaign, republican ads from 2004 that used pictures of the World Trade Center attacks to get the president re-elected.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: These were American citizens killed by terrorists. That is a very different policy issue than American soldiers dying on the battlefield, protecting the rights and freedoms of the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Mr. Boehner went on to say that the differences are as clear as night and day, but I gather that he never actually mentioned what those differences are. Do we have any idea what the differences are?
REID: Well, you‘re asking me to make an intellectually sound distinction here, and this is politics. But I‘ll make a stab at it anyway. And in fact, there was—remember, there was ad that the republicans put out, Bush campaign or the Bush administration put out at one point showing a flag-draped body at 9/11.
Now, I think they would say the intellectually sound distinction there is, in their view anyway, is that they used that body draped by a flag as a call to arms and the message was this death was not in vein. They say what the democrats are doing is saying we give up, we cut and run, these deaths were in vain. So they believe there is a big distinction there.
OLBERMANN: But also I‘m struck by the offense being taken of critics about images of flag-draped coffins while no one seems to be objecting to the fact there are flag-draped coffins. Would it seem a little less disingenuous, could somebody really steal the march here, for somebody criticizing this to just drop in one line starting with, “of course we wish there were no coffins to show before we launch political bombshells,” or am I once again asking too much of politicians?
REID: You may be, because both sides are really trying to get their bases motivated here and logic and reason sometimes don‘t play into it, it‘s just gut. But remember, though, it wasn‘t long ago the Pentagon and the Bush administration were doing everything in their power to keep us from getting those photographs, keep the media from getting photographs or video of those coffins, flag-draped coffins, coming into the United States. They did not want to implant in the minds of the American people that this war was just one coffin after another coming home. But they certainly do run the risk here of, especially for people who are kind of in the middle, independents and moderates, who are not responding to the red meat on one side or the other, people that are saying wait a minute, wow, that‘s a lot of people coming home in flag-draped coffins and if that‘s the image that sticks, then republicans could be hurting themselves here.
OLBERMANN: One final thing, Chip, one of the strangest things about this ad, the only person who speaks in the entire thing is the former president, Bill Clinton, is he really the only person democrats feel can resonate with the voters? Could that not really be a bigger issue for the democrats then the republican response?
REID: I tell you ,to me that‘s what stuck out here more than anything else. But if you look at the people they have, they‘ve got Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid in Congress. They‘ve got Gore and Kerry, the formers, and then they‘ve got people like Biden, Bayh, and Dodd, and Feingold, and of course, the other Clinton, Senator Clinton, who all expected to run for president. Who would you pick from that crowd to give this statement on behalf of the Democratic Party? Bill Clinton, at least in somebody‘s judgment, is still the only one they‘ve got who really encompasses all of that, so that could be a real bad sign for the democrats.
OLBERMANN: We are not paying our political figures enough money.
Chip Reid of NBC News. Great thanks, as always, for staying late with us.
REID: You bet.
OLBERMANN: Also tonight, it sounds like trivia. Mice found on a commercial jetliner? Well, not a couple, but probably hundreds in one plane. Could rodents actually trigger a crash and are airlines taking the problem as seriously as they should?
A quick warning about this. If you‘ve ever said about somebody that cat is two-faced, well—that‘s next, this is COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: I‘m not saying there is any relation between these two stories, but tonight we have a report on a two-faced cat and Angelina Jolie just landed a job that was originally met for Jennifer Aniston. Coincidence? No doubt—when COUNTDOWN continues.
OLBERMANN: I‘m not going to try to fool you here. Animal stories always focus TV viewers like laser beams. In our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN tonight, a three-ring circus of them in descending order of seriousness, including a two-faced cat. Not a duplicitous cat, mind you, we mine it literally. But we begin with a terrifying version of that soon to be cult movie hit, “Snakes on a Plane,” only with mice. If you think they‘d be less dangerous, you‘ve never seen a mouse chewing through insulation or electrical wiring or any of those other things that help keep your flight in the air; 800 mice on a plane could literally be a fatal problem. From our St. Louis station, KSDK, correspondent, Leisa Zigman, explains.
LEISA ZIGMAN, KSDK CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the hidden camera video American Airlines doesn‘t want you to see. A Boeing 767 docked at the overhaul base at Kansas City International Airport.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mice were running around on the floor and that‘d when one had ran down one of the mechanic‘s arms. There was feces all along this edge right here. It‘s throughout the whole aircraft.
ZIGMAN: The whistleblower said workers found nests in the air vents and dead mice in the emergency oxygen masks. See that hole? When the mice got hungry, they ate the insulation and chewed through wires.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the shorted themselves and caused a fire it would go through the cabin so fast.
ZIGMAN: Maintenance workers called the Federal Aviation Hotline asking for an investigation. Using the Freedom of Information Act, the I-Team obtained the FAA brief. On May 5, a caller reported a “mouse infestation” and that mice chewed through two wires and alleged “American Airlines is doing nothing” about eradicating the mice. On May 10 the caller reported that “mice are building nests near the oxygen generators.”
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nine hundred to 1,000 could be on this aircraft.
ZIGMAN: That‘s the estimate exterminators gave workers, but American Airlines disputes that number. In a written statement, the airline admits to finding only 17 live mice.
MEL BURKHARDT, SLU AVIATION EXPERT: It truly invokes a very severe hazard.
ZIGMAN: We showed Mel Burkhardt the hidden camera video. He‘s an aviation expert and crash scene investigator with more than 30 years experience.
BURKHARDT: It‘s a potential for a catastrophic mishap, is there. If you have one mice, obviously you‘ll have two, if you have two, you‘ll have a family.
ZIGMAN: Burkhardt said the plane should have been grounded after the first sighting of a mouse. But according to maintenance logs obtained by the I-Team that didn‘t happen.
Fifteen days earlier, on April 20, the plane was at JFK where mechanics noted for the first time a mouse observed in the galley. See the “KF” circled above? That‘s American Airline‘s code for deferred maintenance. The decision was made to put the plane back into service and fly passengers across the country to LAX in Los Angeles. That‘s where the whistleblower says it happened again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the 23rd another actual sighting of another mouse was noted.
ZIGMAN: Again, the plane went back in the air over and over, until it was flown into Kansas City 11 days later.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when you fly 100 hours and not take care of the problem you‘re putting the people traveling in danger.
ZIGMAN (on camera): The Federal Aviation Administration says American Airlines did nothing wrong because airlines do not have to report rodent infestations unless, of course, the rodents impact the mechanics.
(voice-over): American would not let us see the repairs inside the plane and would not talk to us on camera. But in a statement said, “.N320 was always safe to fly and no lives were put at risk.”
Burkhardt doubts this is the only plane with a rodent problem, but he also said exposing the issue is good for the airlines and for passengers.
BURKHARDT: I guarantee you that now that it‘s known, that they‘ll address it and within a very short period of time, I think this issue will just disappear.
OLBERMANN: Leisa Zigman from an affiliate KSDK in St. Louis reporting for us.
So, what do you do about mice on a plane? Well, the other solution, of course, would be “Snakes on a Plane.” After a flight from Hong Kong touched down in the Netherlands, Dutch customs officials got a little suspicious of this x-ray that looked like a snake in a box marked “toy goods” when the toy goods slithered around a bit, the customs agents knew what they had. The snake, a Fea‘s viper is found in the forest of Southeast Asia and is highly venomous. Netherlands‘s finance minister, Kees Nanninga, said it could have escaped, but he didn‘t know if it could have caused trouble for passengers.
Not sure it would have caused a problem? Mr. Nanninga has obviously not seen the trailer for the film.
Then there‘s a last drastic solution on a plane, a cat, a very special cat, an omni directional cat, kind of Argus of cats. Please get the kids out of the room, or maybe not if they like to be grossed out. From our affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, WCMH, it‘s reporter Mike Bawersock with a cat or cats, depending on your point of view.
MIKE BOWERSOCK, WCMH CORRESPONDENT: You are seeing double. This kitten was born Wednesday morning at this home in Grove City. It has two mouths that meow in unison, two noses and four eyes that have not yet opened.
CHARLES, CAT OWNER: I was playing outside in the rain. Once I came in I saw that there was a two-faced cat that my mom was picking up. That‘s how I knew there was a two-faced cat.
BOWERSOCK (on camera): Charles, the owner of the cat, hasn‘t come up with a name for it.
Charles, if you do name this, what do you think you might name it?
CHARLES: Well, I do have one idea.
BOWERSOCK: And what‘s that?
CHARLES: I‘m going to name him Tiger, just like the other one.
BOWERSOCK (voice-over): In fact, there are two other ones. This is the only kitten with two faces, though. That doesn‘t bother Charles. But what does bother him is that this cat has not nursed since it was born.
CHARLES: I think he‘s cute, but I don‘t think he‘s going to live because he hasn‘t been chewing. I love any kind of animal that‘s made up, because they‘re so cute.
BOWERSOCK: Dr. Shane Bateman with the Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital says a two-faced kitten is extremely rare and there‘s no real explanation as to why this would have happened. Charles thinks it has something to do with the mother cat, Hanna, and Hanna‘s sister.
CHARLE: I just think that Hanna and the cat, her sister, got along so much that I just think they both got pregnant.
BOWERSOCK: And somehow, in the mind of a 6-year-old, a two-faced kitten was born. In Grove City, I‘m Mike Bowersock, NBC News 4.
OLBERMANN: It‘s as good an explanation as any. And by the way, the update from Mike Bowersock, the cat is now nursing and is very much alive.
And from a cat earning human sympathy for having too much in the face department to a horse earning human sympathy for having too little a chance of survival. Barbaro tonight leading our roundup of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.”
His veterinarian saying that the Kentucky Derby winner‘s prognosis is poor. Barbaro, who, for six weeks, seemed to be beating the odds and recovering from a shattered left hind leg, took a turn from the worse this week and is now suffering from a severe case of laminitis, a potentially fatal disease which destroys a horse‘s hoof owing to uneven weight distribution. Dr. Dean Richardson says he and his team will continue to try to save Barbaro, but only as long as the horse is not suffering. Richardson says they may euthanize Barbaro at any hour.
From the entertainment world, another passing. The death of comedian and Oscar-winning character actor, Red Buttons. Born Aaron Chwatt Owen in New York in 1919, Red Buttons became an overnight hit with a comedy show on CBS in 1952, won the award as Radio TV Comedian of the year in 1954. But after his series ended, he virtually vanished. Then came an unexpectedly serious role in an enlisted man in the movie “Sayonara” and an Oscar and Golden Globe Award. He also acted in the d-day movie, “Then Longest Day” in 1962 and was still at it on “Roseanne” in the ‘90s and a Showtime series as late as four years ago. Red Buttons died of vascular disease today in Century City, California. He was 87.
In less serious entertainment news, first Jennifer Aniston losers her husband to Angelina Jolie, now she loses what was rumored to be possibly one of her biggest movie roles. That‘s ahead, first time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”
Tonight we start with Congresswoman Katherine Harris, in her re-election campaign literature she claimed she passed the American dream down payment act, enabling 4.5 million low income workers to own their first home. Uh-huh. The general accounting office says the correct number of low-income workers who enabled to own their first home by that act is not 4.5 million, but 13,000. Ms. Harris never was good with countin‘ stuff.
Our runner-up, the humorist, Brent Bozell, ripping the “New York Times” for being a corporate sponsor of the gay games, just like absolute vodka is a corporate sponsor of the gay-games and Walgreen‘s and American Airlines. Bozell says this means the “Times is “rooting for the homosexual revolution.” Brent, have you checked lately to see if your trolley is still on its tracks?
But the winners, your Pentagon Public Relations Department. Seen those ads recently of big league baseball stadiums and elsewhere? Text message the troops from your cell phone to show your support for them? NPR reports actual troops don‘t actually receive any of your actual text messages. It‘s just a P.R. stunt. Nice, very nice. Pentagon Public Relations, today‘s “Worst Persons in the World.”
OLBERMANN: In our No. 1 story in the COUNTDOWN tonight, his name was Daniel Pearl, he was a “Wall Street Journal” reporter abducted and murdered in Karachi, Pakistan while investigating a story about al-Qaeda. At the time of his death, Pearl‘s wife, Marianne, a freelance journalist, was pregnant with their first child. She would later pen‘ a best selling book, “A Mighty Heart: The Brave Life and Death of my Husband, Daniel Pearl.” The movie rights were bought by a production company called Plan B. Plan B happened to have been started by Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, but now there is news that the role of Marianne Pearl in the movie version will be played by Angelina Jolie. The role of Marianne Pearl originally intended for Jennifer Aniston.
The website Tmz.com reporting that the role was viewed as a possible Oscar vehicle for Aniston, but in her divorce from Pitt, Miss Aniston got the house, while Pitt got the movie company and thus, evidentially, Miss Jolie got the casting. On the selection of Miss Jolie, Marianne Pearl seemed pleased saying, “I am delighted that Angelina Jolie will be playing my role, I deeply admire her work and what she‘s committed to do.” As for Miss Aniston, it may be back to going and doing those leprechauns movies.
Joining me now from Burbank is “In Touch Weekly‘s” senior editor, columnist for TheEnvelope.com, Tom O‘Neil.
Tom, good evening.
TOM O‘NEIL, “IN TOUCH WEEKLY”: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Is there something strange about this? I mean, we‘ll get to the Jolie-Aniston thing in a minute, but is it strange to see the widow of a respected journalist who died under these horrible caught up in the Brangelina circus. Would you think she would want to avoid that?
O‘NEIL: I really think she would, Keith. I‘m surprised she issued this statement today in such intimate personal terms about Angelina because as you pointed out this film began because of the intimate personal relationship she had with Jennifer. Jennifer once told “Vogue” magazine that this movie role meant a lot to her. She said, “I‘ll play it if she can” meaning, if I can do it dramatically. Aniston has always had this problem of crossing over from comedies to drama and everyone thought this could have been it.
OLBERMANN: There‘s too much of art imitating life here. Is there not? I mean, is Angelina Jolie Teflon or is she risking something? She was viewed as stealing Jennifer‘s husband in Brad Pitt, now she will be playing, who in addition to the tragedy she went through, was also viewed as stealing somebody else‘s husband and then dumping him. Is there a tipping point for the public view Jolie based on either her behavior or her role choice?
O‘NEIL: Oh, it is. She is perceived as a ruthless Amazon who swiped prince charming for America‘s sweetheart. That was her general image just a few months ago, she‘s redeemed herself. Angelina has pulled through beautifully. She seems to really love Brad and they seemed to have settled in and everything seems to be fine. But, there does seem to be this—she seems to be toying with Jennifer. You know, she had that c-section, she had the baby two days before the opening of Jennifer‘s movie, “The Break-Up,” there was Aniston walking on the red carpet, her big moment in this movie with her current boyfriend, Vince Vaughn, and all the world was talking about the baby her ex-husband had with Angelina. Many people think it was on purpose.
OLBERMANN: Well, maybe she can clean that up with three hours with Anderson Cooper at some point.
Is it my misperception here, or has Jennifer Aniston pretty low key about Angelina Jolie? Is she remarkably forgiving or is she pragmatic or is she just saving it all up for one very big moment of revenge?
O‘NEIL: Well, let‘s hope so, this is Hollywood. But no, that‘s not Jennifer‘s style. She has the extraordinary connection with Americas‘ womanhood, because she is so shy and she is genuinely, kind of like this frightened bird inside. This gives her this connection that I think almost makes her be—transcend to the point where she‘s like America‘s Princess Di or Julia Roberts or Mary Tyler Moore, the woman who embodies every woman. In the end she‘s going to get her revenge. If this relationship doesn‘t work out between Brad and Angelina. Let‘s face it Keith, how often do these relationships pan out. Ten-20 years from now we‘re still going to care about Jennifer.
OLBERMANN: That—one last thing, did she get the raw end of the divorce deal? I mean, Aniston, she gets the house approximate he gets the production company and the movies?
O‘NEIL: At the time it didn‘t look like a raw deal because the only successful—the only movie that Plan B productions had out was “Troy” and remember what a bomb that was. Since then they‘ve had “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and they have a lot of big movies in the works this fall like “Running with Scissors” and “The Departed,” so in the long haul, maybe Brad won out.
OLBERMANN: And now this. We‘ll see how it plays out. Tom O‘Neil of “In Touch Weekly” great thanks for joining us tonight.
O‘NEIL: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: That is COUNTDOWN, for this, the 1,169th day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. I‘m Keith Olbermann. We‘ll see you on COUNTDOWN tomorrow night. In the interim, goodnight, 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.
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.