Guests: Mort Zuckerman, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Katie Caperton, James Hirsen, Jill Dobson, Debra Opri, Raoul Felder, Shayna Arnold, Tina Dirmann, Dawn Yanek
JOE SCARBOROUGH, HOST: Breaking news tonight. The deadliest day in the growing war between Israel and Hezbollah. Israeli targets terrorist leaders by dropping a 23-ton bomb on a secret Beirut bunker. Hezbollah says its leaders are alive and well.
Meantime, Hezbollah rockets rain across northern Israel, killing two children in the holy city of Nazareth, this as Israeli air strikes knock out terror targets and reportedly kill 63 civilians. Meantime, more than a thousand Americans arriving safely in Cyprus after a desperate escape from the violence in Lebanon.
And later in the show, on a much lighter note, we change gears and check in with some news out of LA. We‘ll hear from Hollywood heavyweight Brad Pitt in an exclusive interview on the “Today” show and ask, Why is this man trying to save the world? Plus, we‘ll have the latest on Oprah‘s mysterious friendship.
But first, we are live in the Middle East. We have complete coverage of the eighth of fighting. We have complete NBC News coverage throughout the region. We also have the best in the business to talk about this crisis, former prime minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan, and the editor-in-chief of “U.S. News & World Report,” Mort Zuckerman.
But we begin tonight in the northern Israel city of Haifa, where NBC‘s Martin Fletcher has the very latest developments there. Martin, what do you have?
MARTIN FLETCHER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Joe, Israel says it doesn‘t want war on the ground, but today its troops inside Lebanon got into a battle with Hezbollah fighters that lasted most of the day.
(voice-over): Israeli elite troops on a mission to destroy Hezbollah posts inside south Lebanon were ambushed today by Hezbollah militias, two Israelis killed, six wounded. When another unit entered Lebanon to evacuate them, they were hit by a mortar round—three more Israelis wounded. Israeli tanks and artillery poured shells onto the hills inside Lebanon, but Hezbollah fought back.
Meanwhile, Israel called up more reserves. And the war intensified on the home front two, 150 Katyusha rockets fired at Israel today, 70 in one hour alone. One smashed into the roof of a car dealership in the Arab town of Nazareth. Two boys playing in a garden were killed instantly. They were ages 3 and 9.
These Israeli Arabs are furious at Hezbollah for shelling them, at Israel for the lack of bomb shelters.
U.N. negotiators are trying to persuade Israel‘s prime minister to agree to a ceasefire, but on his desk he keeps the photos of three kidnapped soldiers and swears no ceasefire until they‘re free. That‘s what the family of Eldar Regev wants to hear. He‘s one of the two soldiers whose kidnapping sparked the war.
EYAL REGEV, BROTHER OF KIDNAPPED ISRAEL SOLDIER: We want that my brother will be—will be home and the army will not bomb on Lebanon.
FLETCHER: But they still don‘t know their brother is dead or alive, no word from the Hezbollah kidnappers, and no word how long the war will last to bring him home.
And now another threat. After Hezbollah called on Palestinians to
rise against Israel at home, Israel caught two suicide bombers in two days
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you so much, Martin Fletcher, for that report.
MSNBC‘s Tuckers Carlson has actually been out on the streets of Haifa today and along the Lebanon-Israeli border, and he joins us live tonight. Tucker, you know, we hear so much about how Israelis are so used to war and they‘re battle-hardened and they can go ahead and go through, you know, their daily lives without a lot of this stuff affecting them. But I understand that‘s not what you‘re finding up there in northern Israel right now, that there are a lot of ghost towns there. Talk about it.
TUCKER CARLSON, HOST, “TUCKER”: Yes, I mean, that—I think it‘s definitely a tough group. They‘re Israeli. But they are gone from much of northern Israel, the towns that we went to, anyway. We spent a fair amount of time today in Nahariya, which is about eight or nine miles south of the Lebanese border, where we also were today. It‘s a fairly upscale, affluent beach town, and there was virtually no one in it. It‘s been pummeled day after day by these Katyusha rockets, and it seems like an inexhaustible supply of them from Hezbollah, to the north. And they have convinced the population to flee.
For most of the day, we were the only people on the streets. We saw, in fact, almost no—no response at all to some of these rockets—no emergency vehicles, no ambulances, no police car, nothing. They‘d just fall, smoke, mushroom cloud, and it seemed nobody responded to them at all because no one was there.
But there is a sense, as you know, in Israel that, you know, these things happen. We arrived this afternoon at our hotel in Haifa, which even now is the third largest population center in the country. The bomb sirens started going off the second we arrived. People in their bathing suits fled from the pool area down to the basement, down to the bomb shelters. The sirens end, people go back to the pool. I mean, this is a country that‘s used to war.
SCARBOROUGH: Hey, Tucker, let me ask you—you know, it‘s so interesting. Just a couple days ago, we were in the Washington bureau together, talking. You get the call that you‘re going over to Tel Aviv and the war zone. And of course, I (INAUDIBLE) Manhattan, not quite as dangerous. Talk about the biggest surprise—I mean, you—you have gone from D.C. to the middle of a war zone. What‘s been the biggest surprise for you in the two days you‘ve been there?
CARLSON: Well, the biggest surprise, from my point of view, is, really, the most basic one, how many rockets Hezbollah has. I mean, again and again and again and again and again, throughout the day, from the second we woke up until not long ago, we hear the thump, thump, thump. In some cases, the thumps are loud, big, large, big explosions coming in from these rockets. And you know, you think that the IDF, the Israeli Defense Forces, one of the most sophisticated militaries in the world, pounding—we can hear the jets going north, really pounding the hills of south Lebanon, would have taken out all those rockets, but they haven‘t. Hezbollah has munitions—munitions that are more sophisticated and more numerous than I think that the IDF expected, certainly more than I expected. This is a well armed enemy, Hezbollah.
SCARBOROUGH: No doubt, it‘s—I smell (ph) Israel in southern Lebanon. Thank you so much, Tucker. Greatly appreciate the report.
CARLSON: Thanks, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: And be safe over there.
“NBC Nightly News” anchor and managing editor Brian Williams spent today with Israeli soldiers near the northern border with Lebanon, and he filed this report after getting back to Tel Aviv.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC ANCHOR: Today, we ventured north to that border with Lebanon, the area that has become rocket corridor, a kind of free-fire zone, with those Hezbollah rockets flying one way and Israeli artillery firing back.
(voice-over): If you look closely down in the valley on what is normally a fairgrounds in the far north of Israel, there they are. And if you don‘t see them at first, you‘ll hear them go off. The pounding of Lebanon goes on all day and all night. In military parlance, they‘re called 155s, American-made 155-millimeter canons hurling Israeli-made shells into another country. Their range can best be put this way: A shell fired from Washington could easily strike Baltimore.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This isn‘t a game. This is about life or death.
And I‘d rather live.
WILLIAMS: Darrell Spielman (ph) was raised in Detroit, graduated from the University of Michigan back in ‘96, moved to Israel and signed up to fight. This young officer, who grew up rooting for the Lions and Tigers, is now shooting at guerrillas he cannot see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, we fired well over 100 shells out of this location, 100, 150 shells just today. But it‘s a 24-hour operation here.
WILLIAMS: The young men here are like soldiers anywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, they took us to the beach and our girlfriends and they just put us here. We don‘t really want to be here.
WILLIAMS: They dream about the outside world. They know parts of Lebanon are being pulverized by what they do. They‘re proud of the accuracy of their weapons, but they know that‘s a relative term and they don‘t think a whole lot about where these shells go.
(on camera): After a long stretch of silence during which these guns were mostly idle, then came a sudden volley, apparently in response to intelligence on a target from a spotter in the air.
One of these shells today or tomorrow, if we go with the law of averages, is going to kill a 6-year-old boy somewhere. And it‘s not the intended target of one of these shells.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don‘t think there in way to rationalize the death of a 6-year-old child. I think a 6-year-old child is—having children myself, is unbelievably painful. However, I know that—I know the pains, having been here for days, that we‘re taking not to hit civilians. However, my family is at risk right now. Israel is at risk.
WILLIAMS (voice-over): Each blast moves the air for 100 yards a round. These shells can open a hole in the earth 40 miles away. It‘s long-distance destruction, just like the rockets we saw today all over the countryside coming in from Lebanon.
(on camera): The Katyusha rockets, random and unguided, are highly dangerous, as we‘ve seen. The ones we don‘t hear about land on hillsides, where they often start fires—in this case, on a hillside in Lebanon.
(voice-over): For now, this northern stretch of Israel is the rocket corridor. These are dangerous days, and there may be many more ahead. The fires are everywhere. Luckily, these are the rockets that don‘t hit buildings or people. They are, however, the marks of a conflict that has so far mostly been fought long distance.
SCARBOROUGH: Thanks so much to Brian Williams. And what a question, asking that guy how he would respond to the fact that those missiles could kill 6-year-old kids. And it‘s just part of that war. Such a tragedy.
Well, tonight, I spoke with a man who understands war in Israel. He‘s former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And I asked him to respond to those people who say Israel is punishing the Lebanese for the actions of a few terrorists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Hezbollah is targeting Israeli civilians with criminal rocketing right into our cities. And it also wants to—is hiding behind Lebanese civilians, seeking to raise the casualty toll on both sides, because they know that Israel has no choice but to take out the rocket emplacements, and they deliberately place the rocket emplacements inside crowded neighborhoods in Lebanon. So Hezbollah is the one that the blame should be placed on.
SCARBOROUGH: These Lebanese incursions, whether on ground or in air, rarely have happy endings for the Israeli people. Why does the story end differently this time?
NETANYAHU: We are facing a new strategic reality. For the first time, Israel‘s cities are being rocketed massively by terrorist organizations supported by terrorist states. So we have to take action to destroy the missile arsenal. In fact, to place one goal right now for Israel, it‘s the Kennedy goal in the Cuban missile crisis: Get rid of the missiles. Remove the threat from our cities, from our people.
SCARBOROUGH: If you go after Hezbollah, that‘s really just a footnote to a much bigger story, is it not? After all, without Iran, without Syria, there is no Hezbollah in the Bekaa Valley. There is no Hezbollah in Lebanon. So what happens after Hezbollah is destroyed? Will Iran not find another vehicle to torture Israelis in the northern part of your country?
NETANYAHU: You‘re absolutely right. And much of this is an Iranian ploy to deflect the international pressure that was building on their nuclear program. Now, I think this brings us to the real nexus of the problem. If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons, then it would threaten not only Israel—it openly says that it intends to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, creating a new Holocaust while they‘re denying the existence of a previous one.
But they also say quite openly, too, if you listen to them, that this is the first step in their long-range plan to reestablish Islamic militancy over you know who. We‘re the little Satan, you‘re the big Satan. Europe is a middle-size Satan, even though they don‘t recognize it. So there is a much larger game here of a mad Islamic militancy that is arming militant groups, rocketing civilians. And if they have the weapons of mass death—and they‘re racing to acquire them—then everyone will be the target.
SCARBOROUGH: Do you think that this has finally taught the doves in Israel that you just can‘t deal with these terror organizations?
NETANYAHU: What should I say? Hello? I told you so?
NETANYAHU: You know, I don‘t think this is the time to say it. You know, it‘s not merely that. I mean, we had territorial deals with Jordan. We have territorial deals with President Sadat of Egypt, and these deals held. But they held because our opponents were not seeking to destroy us. They were seeking to make peace with us. In the case of Lebanon, in the case of Gaza, we have here people who are not interested in making compromise with Israel but eliminating Israel.
SCARBOROUGH: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you so much for being with us.
We greatly appreciate it. And best of luck.
NETANYAHU: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: And coming up next: Israel‘s bombing campaign to destroy Hezbollah targets continues, but now many are saying Israel has simply gone too far. We‘ll debate that when we get back.
SCARBOROUGH: Today has been the deadliest day of fighting in Israel‘s eight-day campaign against Hezbollah terrorists and its efforts to gain the release of its two captured soldiers. Israeli rockets attacked today again southern Lebanon, killing more than 60 Lebanese. Reportedly, they were mostly civilians. And now many people are asking if Israel is actually going too far. An editorial in today‘s “LA Times” criticizes Israel, saying, quote, “categorically refused to negotiate the release of its soldiers, preferring instead to pummel hundreds of thousands of defenseless people on a scale out of all proportion to what it regards as the initial provocation.”
Right now, let me bring in MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan and Mort Zuckerman. He‘s the editor-in-chief of “US News and World Report.”
Pat, has Israel gone too far?
PAT BUCHANAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I think Israel has gone too far, Joe. As I mentioned to you, they were provoked and they were attacked by Hezbollah that killed Israeli soldiers and captured two and took them back into Lebanon. It was a just war for Israel to go and get them and to punish the people that took them and to take out those rockets which are raining down on northern Israel.
But what the Israelis did was launch a blitzkrieg against an innocent nation and people, Lebanon, who didn‘t want any part of this war, destroying air fields or runways on civilian airports, lighthouses, roads, bridges, all the rest of it. You‘ve got 500,000 refugees. It is disproportionate, Joe.
And I believe what it has done is this is collective punishment of an entire people for the sins of terrorists that they did not commit, they do not condone, and they have condemned.
SCARBOROUGH: But Pat, if Hezbollah hides in civilian neighborhoods, if Hezbollah uses roadways and bridges and airports as escape routes to Teheran, and in fact, if in some of these south Beirut neighborhoods, they‘re actually sympathizers of this terror organization, what is Israel to do, just let them run and hide?
BUCHANAN: No. The Beirut airport is not being used to fire rockets. Even Israelis say, when the military equipment comes in, it comes in into Damascus airport and goes by truck through the Bekaa. But Joe, what the Israelis should do, in my judgment, they have a perfect right to do, send the Israeli army in up to the Tani (ph) River, clean these pockets out, take out as many of the missiles as can you, then tell the Lebanese army, Look, this—we‘re enforcing 1559. Bring your army down. Tell the international community, You take over. We‘ll go home, as long as there are no more rockets fired on us. Why don‘t they go in and fight the people on the ground mano a mano?
SCARBOROUGH: Mort Zuckerman, Pat wrote a tough column today, and he said on this show a couple days ago that what Israel‘s been doing is immoral and un-Christian. Respond to that.
MORT ZUCKERMAN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, “U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT”: Well, I
as Pat probably gathers, I don‘t agree with that at all. What the Israelis are trying to do is not just a question of the two soldiers who were taken hostages or the eight who were killed. This has been going on since Israel withdrew totally from Lebanon, according to the U.N., six years ago. And there have been rockets that have been fired and missile that have been fired at Israelis since then.
This is the first time they have responded because it happened in such a provocative way, when Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah, basically attacked the Israeli leadership, said they were too weak to respond, that they wouldn‘t dare retaliate. So as they say, Do not disturb the crocodile until you‘ve crossed the river. They could not—the Israeli leadership could not stand by and do nothing.
Now, the question is, is what they are doing disproportionate? Disproportionate to what? To missiles that are being fired at civilian populations in Israel? Is exactly that going after, shall we say, non-innocent people?
SCARBOROUGH: But Mort, you know, I‘ve been a strong supporter of Israel in Congress and on this show, but more and more people that I‘m talking to in America are saying that there is a disproportionate number of Lebanese civilians who are being killed to Israelis civilians being killed.
ZUCKERMAN: But of course, there is. Let me just finish this thing because the Lebanese—the Israelis are doing an unbelievable job in terms of precision weaponry and going at the locations of these missiles. These missiles are put in areas where civilians are living. They are—they know that these missiles are there. They‘re getting paid to live in those areas. They pay rent on these areas. So these are civilians who know where they are and are getting paid for it.
BUCHANAN: Come on, now, Mort...
ZUCKERMAN: And Israelis—that is absolutely true!
ZUCKERMAN: Just a minute. Let me finish my thought!
SCARBOROUGH: All right, go ahead.
ZUCKERMAN: Let me finish my thought here because...
SCARBOROUGH: Finish it.
ZUCKERMAN: ... what happens here is that the Israelis are trying to prevent not only the existing supply, but they have to break the back of Hezbollah, who have been receiving longer—missiles with longer ranges, more lethality and more accuracy, which would put every Israeli city, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem...
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on a second. Pat, you and I both know if Israel does nothing, today they strike Haifa, tomorrow they strike Tel Aviv.
SCARBOROUGH: In a year, Iran is going to smuggle missiles into Syria, which are going to be smuggled down to southern Lebanon, which will be able to strike parts of Jerusalem. They have to break the back of Hezbollah. And if Hezbollah hides in these neighborhoods, if people are sympathizers and keep missiles under their bed or whatever “The New York Times” reported today, what choice does Israel have?
BUCHANAN: Oh, come on now, Joe.
SCARBOROUGH: Come on now what?
BUCHANAN: Come on...
SCARBOROUGH: You and I both know, Pat, if this crap was going on in Mexico, you would tell us, Launch an invasion and wipe them out. What‘s the difference between Mexico doing this to us and Hezbollah doing this to Israel?
BUCHANAN: We‘ve heard you two fellows. Look, if Mexico came into the United States, as Pancho Villa did in 1916, murdered 17 Americans—we sent a force in—right into Mexico. You don‘t send F-16s to knock out the power plant in Mexico City, if Mexico City has condemned that! Now, what Mort is talking about right now—Israeli—he says, We‘ve got precision weapons. Why then, if you‘ve got precision weapons and Hezbollah does not, are the Lebanese civilians dying at 20 to 1...
BUCHANAN: ... over Israelis? Let me finish!
ZUCKERMAN: OK. Sure. Go ahead.
BUCHANAN: Let me make my point here, Mort!
ZUCKERMAN: Fair enough. Fair enough. I‘m sorry.
BUCHANAN: Now, look, in my judgment, I agree with the Israelis‘ right to go in and dig these guys out, out of southern Lebanon. They got a right to do that, a right of pursuit. They‘re not doing that, Joe! They‘re smashing the civilian economy to the point where the Lebanese president is condemning them for putting back the country 20 years, which is what the Israeli government said it was going to do!
SCARBOROUGH: You know, Mort, my only problem with what—I usually agree with Pat. My only problem with—well, I have a lot of problems with what he says regarding Israel, but my problem here is this. You can talk about Mexico City government condemning the attacks or the Lebanese government condemning the attacks. Guess what? They‘re the ones who decided to give Hezbollah, a terror organization that talked about the destruction of Israel—they‘re the ones who decided to give them a seat at their table and the government. I mean, not Israel. And if Mexico...
SCARBOROUGH: ... punish Mexico, too!~
BUCHANAN: Joe that is Bush‘s election!
ZUCKERMAN: Pat—now, Pat...
BUCHANAN: Bush called for that election~!
ZUCKERMAN: Pat, let me say something for a minute, OK?
ZUCKERMAN: The Hezbollah is not just in southern Lebanon. The missiles are not just in southern Lebanon. A lot of armaments are going over these bridges. A lot of—they take out these large missiles, and they have to set them up on launchers. That‘s why the Israelis are blowing up the bridges, so that they can‘t carry these missiles to the launch sites.
The launch—the whole headquarters of Hezbollah is in southern—is in south Beirut. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard—four of the buildings they blew up were Iranian Revolutionary Guards. So you cannot just say southern Lebanon. That doesn‘t address the problem of what the Israelis have to cope with when these missiles are...
SCARBOROUGH: Pat, we got to go, but I‘m going to give you the last 15 seconds, Pat. Go.
BUCHANAN: Mort, you‘re not addressing the problem. They got precision-guided weapons, and they‘re killing Lebanese civilians at 20 to 1, the ratio of Hezbollah terrorists. Mort, you are equating Israel‘s right with the right—with what terrorists are doing. They can‘t behave that way if they‘re a Western country and believe in Judeo-Christian values~!
SCARBOROUGH: I‘ll tell what you, Pat, the real problem is Iran and Teheran, and we‘ve ignored that central problem since 1979. And maybe one day, we‘ll have leaders in Washington that‘ll confront it head on. Pat Buchanan, Mort Zuckerman, thanks for being with me...
SCARBOROUGH: ... give that little O‘Reilly-esque editorial at the end. But that is the problem. Tonight, some are, though, blaming President Bush for the crisis in the Middle East. Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean was quoted this week saying, quote, “If you think what‘s going on in the Middle East today would be going on if the Democrats were in control, it wouldn‘t, because we would have worked day after day after day to make sure we didn‘t get where we are.”
Well, is Howard Dean right? With me now, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, editor of “The Nation” magazine. And Katrina, let me just say tonight, I‘m going to say something very radical, and that is—radical in the political climate we find ourself in today—that I actually think Republicans and Democrats have done a pretty darn good job of isolating Iran and Syria. And I think this past week, ironically, has proven it. If you look at Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, all the countries that invaded Israel in ‘67 and ‘73, today they‘re actually condemning Hezbollah. Isn‘t that a victory for Republicans and Democrats and the policy we‘ve been implementing for 20 years?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, “THE NATION”: You know, Joe, it‘s very difficult to talk about Democrats and Republicans in any kind of victory when you look at the abject failure of America‘s policy in the Middle East in these last three years, the signature issue being Iraq. It has destabilized the region. It has sowed chaos. No democracy, chaos. It has undermined our security. It has caused humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq. It has stretched our military to its limits.
Now we see an administration, the Bush administration, which has been AWOL in terms of any attention to a deteriorating Palestinian-Israeli peace process in these last years. What‘s crucial, Joe, right now—and there are very few Democrats speaking about this—is you need as rapid a ceasefire as possible, mutual prisoner exchange. You need the introduction of a real peacekeeping force with teeth and a revival of political initiatives for some kind of political resolution. And the United States, the Bush administration, should consider this an emergency and exert its diplomatic leverage on Israel. That‘s the key.
SCARBOROUGH: Haven‘t we found—just—there have been such dramatic movements over the past couple of years, where Israelis have unilaterally been giving up the Gaza strip, have been unilaterally doing so many things that we‘ve been hearing they needed to do for the past 20 years. But as Tom Friedman wrote in “The New York Times” today, Israelis have learned can you no longer trade land for peace because it seems that when you trade land, what you get instead is war.
VANDEN HEUVEL: You need a peace process akin to what was going on in the late ‘80s and ‘90s with the European Union, the “quartet” process, which the Bush administration undermined. You need to understand—we talk a lot about Resolution 1559 and southern Lebanon. What about Resolution 242 and a real resolution of the occupied territories?
Listen, you were talking to Pat and Mort earlier—if you care about a secure Israel, what Israel is doing today with the collective punishment of the Lebanese and Palestinian people, pummeling the infrastructure of that—of Lebanon, of—it is undermining Israel‘s security and strengthening the very forces, Hamas and Iran and Hezbollah, in the region which we would like to see contained.
Where is the dialogue with Iran, with Syria, which this administration should be conducting if there was any...
SCARBOROUGH: All right...
VANDEN HEUVEL: ... sanity in Washington?
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you so...
VANDEN HEUVEL: Which there isn‘t.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you so much, Katrina Vanden Heuvel.
I‘ve just got to say, like I said last night, you look at the map—and again, I—the Bush administration has not been successful in so many ways diplomatically, but look at the map and see that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq—I‘ve written these down—Lebanon, all the countries that invaded Israel back in ‘67 and ‘73, in those two momentous wars, now they‘re actually attacking Hezbollah for these attacks...
VANDEN HEUVEL: Joe, Lebanon—Lebanon is now shattered. Lebanon, which could have been a restraint in terms of the democracy in the region, is now shattered, and we have strengthened...
SCARBOROUGH: It is...
VANDEN HEUVEL: Israel has strengthened the forces of Hezbollah...
SCARBOROUGH: They have? They have?
VANDEN HEUVEL: They have.
SCARBOROUGH: But Katrina, it‘s shattered right now, but I‘m telling you, Lebanon will return, and we‘re seeing—we got to look at this, friends, over a 20-year process and not just what‘s happened this week.
Katrina, thank you so much. We‘ll be right back with more SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY in a minute.
SCARBOROUGH: Welcome back. NBC‘s Ann Curry spoke exclusively with Brad Pitt in New Orleans where he‘s working to build an environmentally friendly neighborhood. She asked him why.
BRAD PITT, ACTOR: I got kids now, and it really changes your perspective on the world. And, you know, I‘ve had my day. I‘ve had my day. I made some films. And I‘ve really had a very fortunate life. And it‘s time for me to share that a bit.
ANN CURRY, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Angie says that. She says that the reason why she does so much humanitarian work is because, having children, she feels a greater responsibility.
PITT: It‘s true. It completely changes your perspective and certainly takes the focus off yourself, which I‘m really grateful for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE: Katie Caperton from “OK” magazine is here with us. Also, we have James Hirsen. He‘s the author of the book, “Hollywood Nation: Left Coast Lies, Old Media Spin, and the New Revolution.”
James, let me start with you. Why do you think Brad Pitt is parachuting into New Orleans right after being airlifted out of a very publicized birthing process, spawning process in Africa? What‘s going on here? Is he just trying to generate publicity for himself, or has he been changed by the birth of his child?
JAMES HIRSEN, “HOLLYWOOD NATION” AUTHOR: Well, look, I wouldn‘t want to judge his intentions or his heart, but this sure looks a lot like photo-op humanitarianism. I mean, if you look at what he‘s actually doing—I mean, it‘s wonderful for him to bring attention to New Orleans. But at the end of the day, he is sponsoring a contest for a design, for the best environmentally friendly design for one 12-unit apartment building. At the end of the day, it‘s not going to house anyone.
Meanwhile, there‘s all kinds of efforts that don‘t get publicity, like the Architectural Record has a contest for high-density housing, which is really needed, safe, high-density housing, instead of having the burden of recyclable materials, and extra insulations, and solar panels, or whatever is in these designs.
He‘s pushed himself with an organization that is an affiliate of Green Cross, founded by Mikhail Gorbachev, which has a penchant for going into Hollywood, getting celebrities involved, like they had Salma Hayek and Jake Gyllenhaal go to the Arctic to learn about global warming. So this looks like image is everything.
SCARBOROUGH: Katie, OK, is this nothing more than a P.R. stunt by Brad Pitt to shine up the image?
KATIE CAPERTON, “OK” MAGAZINE: Well, frankly, if you‘re Brad Pitt, you really don‘t need to build up any more publicity for yourself. This is just an issue of him being concerned.
And the fact that we‘re discussing it on your show tonight is a testament of the fact that, if he goes down there and he gets people talking about Hurricane Katrina victims, and ways to build eco-friendly housing, he‘s going to use his celebrity for a good cause.
And he‘s not doing this for any P.R. stunt. He certainly doesn‘t need that. He‘s been involved in this project since September. He‘s not parachuting into town and smiling for the cameras. He‘s actually really invested in this project.
And he‘s just recently given over $300,000 to one of the hospitals in Namibia. He worked with 9/11, the victims, the family members of 9/11 victims. This isn‘t the only project that he‘s working on, so this certainly isn‘t a publicity stunt.
SCARBOROUGH: And, finally, James, do you predict that his movie career is going to be helped or hurt? I mean, is he over-publicizing himself here?
HIRSEN: Oh, I don‘t think it will hurt him at all. As a matter of fact, Hollywood being the P.R. capital of the world, he‘s got lots of advisers nurturing him. And this cause is not one that takes courage, because he‘s got a double pop. He‘s working with a very worthy cause, the people who need housing in New Orleans, but he‘s combined it with this whole environmental movement, which is really popular in Hollywood, particularly in the light of Al Gore‘s success.
So if anything, it‘s going to help him. And he implied in his interview that his day was over, that somehow his career is not going to continue, and he‘s got six films in various stages of production. So we‘re not going to see the last of Brad Pitt.
SCARBOROUGH: I don‘t think so. Thank you so much, James. Thank you, Katie. Greatly appreciate it. Stay with us.
Coming up next, Christie Brinkley in the middle of a scorcher of a love triangle. The tabloids are talking about it in New York. We‘ll tell you what‘s going on when SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY returns.
SCARBOROUGH: The ultimate uptown girl is at the top of the tabloid headlines with reports that supermodel Christie Brinkley‘s storybook marriage to architect Peter Cook has fallen apart because of his alleged obsession with a 19-year-old woman. Well, today, another woman came forward to claim that she, too, had an affair with Cook before his marriage to Christie Brinkley.
Here with the latest on the real-life soap opera is Jill Dobson. She‘s with “Star” magazine. Celebrity divorce attorney Debra Opri, attorney Raoul Felder, who represented Christie Brinkley‘s third husband in their divorce. And also with us, “US” magazine reporter Shayna Arnold.
Let me begin with you, Jill. I guess this is Christie Brinkley‘s fourth marriage. Nobody‘s perfect. What‘s going on here?
JILL DOBSON, “STAR” MAGAZINE: Well, it‘s hard to believe that any man could cheat on Christie Brinkley, but then again we‘ve seen it happen to Halle Berry. It seems like the most beautiful women in the world keep getting cheated on.
And so, in our current issue, we talk to a psychiatrist and say, how can men do this? And the answer is that sometimes they feel threatened when the woman is so famous, and so important, and gets so much attention. And, you know, someone like a 19-year-old is going to look up to a man like Peter Cook and say, “Wow, he‘s interested in me,” whereas Christie‘s going to ask him to take the garbage out and so...
SCARBOROUGH: Oh, come on, are you saying, Jill, that some men are insecure and want younger women to tell them how great they are?
DOBSON: Well, apparently, that‘s reportedly a repeated problem for Peter Cook, because not only was there this current 19-year-old, but Samantha Cole says when she was 19 years old she had a relationship with him. So apparently this guy in particular falls into that category.
SCARBOROUGH: Mr. Felder, it appears that Mr. Brinkley is getting all of the negative press, but you don‘t think it‘s all his fault, do you?
RAOUL FELDER, DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Well, I mean, look, both of these girls want to be known as the ex-girlfriend of Mr. Christie Brinkley. And God bless him.
The latest girl who came up, he wasn‘t even married to Christie Brinkley. And this girl plays no role in the divorce, really, other than she‘s the other woman. She‘s given press conferences. She is sitting in her lawyer‘s office telling it all to the world. And, you know, it‘s just another long divorce in New York. And somebody‘s going to sit down, and tot up the numbers, and everybody will go home happy or unhappy.
SCARBOROUGH: So, Debra Opri, it appears that Christie Brinkley‘s husband may have been the victim here. They‘re using him to get publicity. Seriously, this is how it works in New York and L.A. I mean, women attach themselves to a famous man or a guy who‘s married to a famous woman. They have an affair. And then they hold a press conference and try to sell books or interviews, right?
DEBRA OPRI, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I‘m a lawyer licensed in New York, as well as D.C., Jersey and California. I wish I was representing Christie Brinkley, because Mr. Cole has a pattern of conduct, and he‘s rightfully on the outs right now.
If you look at Christie‘s pattern of marrying these gentlemen, and if you look at the facts that we‘ve gotten to know in the last few days that he did, in fact, propose to a number of girls before proposing to Christie, in a very close proximity of time, I would allude to a question to Christies: Did you do your homework? Why did you take this step?
And as far as Mr. Cole goes—Mr. Cook, rather—I just don‘t have any good fuzzies about either Christie or her soon-to-be-ex. I think that this something Christie should have known about. And if she didn‘t, that‘s a big question for me. If I were her attorney, I‘d be advising her just don‘t get married again.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, I tell you what, after four times, you may want to give it up.
Shayna, if you can, tell us what your angle is on this. Do you think it‘s Christie Brinkley‘s fault, the women‘s fault, or this cad‘s fault?
SHAYNA ARNOLD, “US” MAGAZINE: You know, I don‘t think it‘s that cut and dry. On the one hand, this is—while he does have a history, this is a long-term marriage and one that a lot of people, especially in the Hamptons, looked up to as a model relationship.
You know, I know now that this young woman has hired lawyers and is considering a sexual harassment, you know, suit against Mr. Cook. She had a year to come forward with these allegations and perhaps is only now embarrassed that they‘ve become public. On the other hand, could Christie have been a little bit more wide-eyed? Probably. I don‘t think it‘s very cut and dry.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Thanks so much. We appreciate you all being with us. We‘ll be right back.
SCARBOROUGH: In case you‘re wondering, Oprah says she‘s not—gay, that is. The queen of talk and her best friend, Gayle King, are coming out of the closet as straight. You know, rumors have long swirled about the relationship between Oprah and Gayle. Gayle was on “The View” today, though, and this is what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GAYLE KING, FORMER TALK SHOW HOST: What bothers Oprah more than people thinking that we‘re gay and we‘re not is that people think she‘s a liar. And if we were gay, we would so tell you. She‘s told you every single thing in her life...
KING: ... because there‘s nothing wrong with it. We would tell you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCARBOROUGH: Not that there‘s nothing wrong with it. Doesn‘t that sound like a “Seinfeld” episode? Yes, right, she could just come out and announce it. She‘d still be the queen of daytime TV, right? Middle-class women across America would still follow her, right? I don‘t think so.
In her magazine this month, Oprah talked about her relationship with King, saying this. Quote, “I understand why people think we‘re gay. There isn‘t a definition in our culture for this kind of bond between women, so I get why people have to label it.”
Here to talk about Oprah‘s confession, “Star” magazine‘s Tina Dirmann.
And from “Life and Style,” we have Dawn Yanek.
Tina, let me start with you. Why does Oprah feel like she needs to run around and tell people she‘s not gay?
TINA DIRMANN, “STAR” MAGAZINE: You know what? I have no idea. I feel like this couple at this point, they‘re kind of becoming the Tom and Katie of the friendship world. I mean, I think we‘re all sick of it. Enough already!
They want to know why people think they‘re gay? Because they talk about how much they love and how much they mean to each other all the time. I mean, just in this interview alone, they talk about how—I think Oprah calls their friendship “otherworldly.” I mean, just get over yourself. We‘re all a little sick of it at this point.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, the thing is, I mean, if they‘ve already denied being gay before, why do they both go out again and her not-gay friend going on “The View” and saying, “We‘re not gay,” and now Oprah talking about it in her magazine? Like you said, I mean, it seems to me that they‘re almost wanting to drum up this type of publicity so people will talk about whether they‘re gay.
DIRMANN: That‘s exactly right. You know, Oprah Winfrey has almost become her own favorite guest at this point. You know, a lot of her segments on her show feature herself. She opened her season—I think it was this year—with a segment on the dog she bought. She bought dogs, you know?
But I guess people eat it up. I know that her show is very popular. But she seems to talk about herself an awful lot, I don‘t know, maybe a little too much at this point.
SCARBOROUGH: Dawn Yanek, why are these rumors following Oprah? And why has Oprah decided she‘s going to feed the fire by talking about it more?
DAWN YANEK, “LIFE AND STYLE”: I think it‘s—there are a few reasons. First of all, why not? Like Gayle said, she‘s talked about so much else in her life, why not this? And you know what? She‘s about branding. She‘s about entertainment. She‘s about putting herself out there in her show, in her magazine. And what this is issue about? It‘s about the friendship issue.
So, of course, Oprah‘s been in a celebrating mood lately. Ever since her 50th birthday, I‘m telling you, she‘s had the Legends Ball. She‘s had the luncheon celebrating African-American women. And she‘s celebrating friendship. She‘s celebrating Gayle. And you know what? I think it‘s great that she has a friend who she can talk to four times a day. I don‘t think there‘s anything wrong with that.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, that‘s great. I‘ve got friends I talk to four times a day, but I don‘t run around telling people on my show that I‘m not gay with them.
YANEK: But you know what? People are fascinated with Oprah. And if she had a friendship issue, and it‘s a huge interview that went on for pages and pages, and she didn‘t address it, people would say, “Hmm, they didn‘t talk about it. That must mean something.”
SCARBOROUGH: Didn‘t address what? Just because she‘s close to a woman, she thinks that people are going to assume that she‘s gay? You know what I‘d assume? I‘d assume that she had a close friend that was a woman.
YANEK: You know what? The rumors have swirled for years. And I think people in America have a problem with women who are unmarried and who are OK with that, especially women in power who are unmarried. For some reason, these rumors have just dogged them for years.
SCARBOROUGH: All right. Tina Dirmann, do you think we‘ve heard the end of this story, or is Oprah going to bring it up again in a couple of months?
DIRMANN: We‘re talking about the talk show queen, aren‘t we? Are we done with this? Are you kidding me? This is going to come back. I‘ll be back on your show in a couple of weeks. We‘ll talk about it some more.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, thank you so much, Tina Dirmann.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you so much, Dawn Yanek. You know the surprising thing for me, as a guy that‘s always worked in the afternoons and hasn‘t really watched Oprah that much, it‘s amazing how women all over this country, and some men, follow Oprah Winfrey‘s life so closely. She‘s one of the most powerful people, not only in America, but in the world. Really, she is a remarkable figure. In 100 years from now, people will explain America by talking about Oprah.
Hey, that‘s all the time we have for tonight. Stay tuned for an MSNBC special report, “CRISIS IN THE MIDDLE EAST,” with Tucker Carlson. He‘s live in Israel now.
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