updated 8/3/2006 10:08:52 AM ET 2006-08-03T14:08:52

Guests: Richard Wolffe, Tom O‘Neil, Michael Musto

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

Israel warned there were caveats to the bombing halt.  Few expected those caveats would be invoked so quickly.  Air strikes resumed, directed, the Israelis say, at Hezbollah.

As the reverberations after the civilian deaths at Qana continue, the U.N. Security Council expresses extreme shock and distress, words that might now apply to U.S. foreign policy.  Have we been painted into a corner?  Day 20 of the conflict in Lebanon and Israel.

At home, flying, you may experience delays if this person is on your flight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “TODAY”)

KATIE COURIC, HOST:  Good morning.  I‘m Katie Couric.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Or if you‘re flying to Los Angeles, where a quarter of the runways were just shut down.

Why was Lindsay Lohan shut down?  She phones in sick on her new film. 

Studio head writes back, saying she wasn‘t sick, she was out partying. 

Studio head now goes on camera.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re getting paid good money.  You have a great, great life.  Show up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  And this additional tip to celebrities, when pulled over

by the cops, don‘t blame any religious or ethnic groups.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEL GIBSON:  Actually, I stopped you because I noticed your Lasso sticker.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Full coverage of Mel Gibson, day four.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIBSON:  Have a nice day, Chachi.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  Gibson dressed as a cop, just a public service announcement coincidence, not his new job, now that his film career is over.  Guess what Mel just checked himself into.  Oh, here we go.

All that and more, now on COUNTDOWN.

Good evening.

There was always a loophole in Israel‘s announcement that it would halt bombings for 48 hours after its strikes on the village of Qana killed dozens of civilians, many of them children.  Even so, even in the most positive of interpretations, the hoped-for diplomatic implications of the sort of halt did not turn out exactly as anticipated.

Our fifth story on the COUNTDOWN, Israel today resuming its bombing of southern Lebanon after only a handful of the 48 hours it had pledged, the prime minister of Lebanon, previously at odds with the terrorist group,  now thanking Hezbollah for its, quote, “sacrifices.”  Not good, the bombs still falling today.

The Israeli prime minister, still defiant, insisted that there will be no cease-fire until Israel achieves its goals, the Israeli security cabinet tonight having approved a plan for a wider ground offensive.

International pressure for a cease-fire never stronger, the pictures out of Qana, particularly those of the children, all still in the pajamas they had been wearing before two Israeli bombs tore through the home in which they‘d been sleeping, prompting anger and outrage for a second consecutive day, that incident bringing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice home a little earlier than expected today, with little to show for it other than an invitation to dinner with the president.

Israel‘s pledge to halt or at least limit the bombings spun yesterday as a significant concession obtained by the secretary, any perceived benefit to U.S. foreign policy obliterated along with today‘s air strikes.

In a moment, the collateral damage to the Bush administration‘s foreign standing, analyzed for us by Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek.”

But we begin tonight with the continuing superlative work of our correspondents in the region at the end of day 20 of the conflict, starting with Martin Fletcher in northern Israel.

Martin?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN FLETCHER, NBC CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, Israel‘s security cabinet tonight approved widening the ground operation.  But Israel is honoring its promise to stop most attacks from the air for 48 hours.  Since the fighting began, Israeli war planes averaged 173 attacks a day.

Today, according to the air force, just two, both against Hezbollah targets.

(voice-over):  International pressure is growing on Israel to stop the war, but the prime minister today was defiant.  Ehud Olmert made it clear, no cease-fire until Israel achieves its goals, removing the rocket threat from Hezbollah, saving its two kidnapped soldiers.

Today, Israel and Hezbollah were locked in more fierce battles, after Israel launched another incursion into Lebanon.  Israel moved more forces to the border today, while reserve troops trained for a possible ground invasion.

(on camera):  This is an Israeli artillery unit moving into position.  Despite calls for a cease-fire, the Israeli defense minister has already said Israel will continue into south Lebanon with more troops.

(voice-over):  After pressure from the United States, Israel halted most of its air raids, a two-day suspension, except to provide cover for its ground troops.

Hezbollah also hit the pause button.  After 150 Katyushas fired yesterday, not one fired today, only two mortars.  Israelis in Haifa almost relaxed, venturing into the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  It feels just a little bit normal, and not all the time war.

FLETCHER:  Israeli analysts say, if the fighting did end today, it would look like a defeat for Israel.

ALON BEN DAVID, MILITARY CORRESPONDENT:  It seems like the military was unsuccessful in achieving the objectives for the war.

FLETCHER:  But at the U.N. in New York, a critical meeting scheduled today to plan a new peacekeeping force for Lebanon was indefinitely postponed, another blow to hopes for a cease-fire.

I‘m Martin Fletcher in Haifa.

Now to NBC‘s Richard Engel in Qana, Lebanon.

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC BEIRUT BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over):  Limping to safety, 200 elderly, too weak to have already left, today escaped the front-line village of Bint Jbeil.  “We‘ve been here for 20 days,” she said.

Desperate for water, some so frail they had to be dragged away.  With few aid workers, reporters helped out.

Hezbollah killed nine Israeli soldiers here last week, triggering a massive Israeli retaliation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘s no more Bint Jbeil anymore.  All Bint Jbeil is ruined.

ENGEL:  Every moment was precious today, everyone trying to take advantage of the bombing pause.

Aid convoys unloaded.  Refugees drove and walked north out of the war zone in 100-degree heat, as the Red Cross recovered 49 bodies buried in abandoned villages like Qana, where more than 50 were killed yesterday by an Israeli air strike.

(on camera):  The suspension of air strikes has not only allowed people to escape, but also to assess the sheer scale of the damage.

This was a road, destroyed by three 3,000-pound bombs.

(voice-over):  We know that, because a fourth one didn‘t explode, and ended up in this man‘s living room.  The bomb, the size of a couch, bounced off the road, crashed through the wall, and spun on the floor until it came to a rest.  “If it had exploded,” he said, “it would have killed 35 people staying in a house across the street,” causing what he said would have been another massacre in Qana.

Richard Engel, NBC News, Qana, south Lebanon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And time now, as promised, to call in our own Richard Wolffe, the senior White House correspondent for “Newsweek” magazine.

Richard, good evening.

RICHARD WOLFFE, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, “NEWSWEEK” MAGAZINE: 

Good evening, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  The administration‘s approach in this situation in the Middle East, and the leverage that it now has, they‘re both radically different from where they were last week, are they not?

WOLFFE:  Well, they‘re certainly radically different from where they were in the first week of this, when they had Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia on their side.  That picture has radically changed.  And with it, the overall presidential vision of this as a sort of a—both a war, and an opportunity to spread democracy.

It just doesn‘t look like that now.  And there‘s credibility problems for the administration, for Secretary Rice, strategic problems for the president, and obviously problems on the ground for the Israelis.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, Dr. Richard Haass, who was in the administration, the foreign policy expert, responded to that “opportunity” line, told one of the newspapers that he hadn‘t laughed so hard in all he could (INAUDIBLE) recall.  There‘s nothing resembling an opportunity.

But whatever that—the prompting, whatever the instigation, could it be possible to overstate the importance of the air strikes and the disaster at Qana driving the Lebanese prime minister to the hands of Hezbollah short term?  Obviously Secretary Rice‘s efforts erased, short term.  Do we have an idea what the potential long-term impact of Qana will be?

WOLFFE:  Well, you know, if it wasn‘t Qana this week, it would have been another town next week.  This is a difficult war for Israel to fight.  They‘re under fire from foreign territory using foreign missiles, from Iran, and these are guerillas that base themselves out of residential neighborhoods.  So if you‘re going to strike back, and it every country in the world would be obliged to strike back against this kind of attack, you‘re going to hit civilians, and that‘s exactly what they did.

This is part of a PR battle that Israel has woefully lost.  And it‘s damaging to Israel, it‘s obviously damaging to America and Britain, as supporters of that.

But, you know, longer term, the administration wanted to have the Lebanese government support for the bombing of Lebanon, and again, no country in the world would find that acceptable.

OLBERMANN:  Earlier tonight, as we‘ve mentioned now twice, the security cabinet in Israel approved this to widen the ground offensive into Lebanon.  This was referenced in Martin Fletcher‘s report.  Should we be interpreting it in the same way, that it‘s a sign that the air war has been a failure?

WOLFFE:  Well, it‘s kind of early to say it‘s been a failure.  They clearly tried to strike leadership targets, they didn‘t quite get there. 

They think that they have eroded some of the missile rocket fire, but that

of course, they‘ve still got plenty more to go there.

You know, Israel is caught between success and failure.  It‘s a stalemate.  And as such, as the correspondents have admirably pointed out, that looks like a victory for Hezbollah, because Israel is compared to basically a six-day war, and anything more than six days, and it looks like a failure.

OLBERMANN:  On Friday, Richard, the Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who‘s never been in line, pretty much, with the administration on almost anything, spoke out about all this.  He said the president is not involved enough, should be engaging directly with Iran and with Syria.  Today the senator went even further.  I‘d like to listen to this, and then get your reaction.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL ®, NEBRASKA:  The sickening slaughter on both sides, Mr. President, must end, and it must end now.

President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire.  This madness must stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

OLBERMANN:  To what degree is it significant that a prominent member of his own party would have broken with the president over the Middle East?

Richard, give me your reaction to that.

WOLFFE:  Yes, my reaction to Chuck Hagel would be that, you know, politics of America has changed, and is changing as people look to 2008.  And Chuck Hagel is certainly doing that.  The foreign policy debate about war and about the war on terror is changing before our eyes, and Chuck Hagel is expressing that.

OLBERMANN:  Richard Wolffe of “Newsweek” and MSNBC, great thanks. 

Sorry for the audio problems.

WOLFFE:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  From the diplomatic angst to the military confusion.  Has Israel gotten in over its head with Hezbollah?

And speaking of being in over its head, Mel Gibson.  First it was a simple DUI, then it was a covered-up anti-Semitic and sexist tirade.  Is it now rehab?  And will it soon be the end of a career?

You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Since its birth as a state in 1948, Israel‘s security situation has remained virtually constantly untenable, organizations surrounding the country, not to mention those within its own borders, denying its very right to exist.

Our fourth story on the COUNTDOWN, while no one is denying the threat posed to Israel by Hezbollah, the size and strategy of the Israel response is fueling debate tonight about whether that country had miscalculated from the very start its attack on the terror organization.

Our chief White House correspondent is David Gregory.

David?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID GREGORY, MSNBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Keith, Israel is facing more diplomatic pressure than ever now, and questions about its tactics, given that it‘s certainly done a lot of damage but has yet to achieve its primary goal of routing Hezbollah.

(voice-over):  Israel has said all along it‘s fighting in self-defense, and again today, President Bush agreed.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It‘s important to remember this crisis began with Hezbollah‘s unprovoked terrorist attacks against Israel.  Israel is exercising its right to defend itself.

GREGORY:  Yet the death toll of Lebanese civilians mounts, and the outrage in the Arab world and beyond, once muted, grows.

Hezbollah was at first condemned by moderate Arab governments, but now, it‘s Israel being cast as the aggressor, not the victim.

Did Israel miscalculate?  Military experts say the Israeli Defense Force misjudged the enemy, thousands of entrenched guerrilla fighters still capable of launching rockets.

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY (RET.), UNITED STATES ARMY:  They tried to do this on the cheap with precision air power, special operations, pinpointed attacks.  They needed to get in and expunge Hezbollah...

GREGORY:  At the center of this war, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, an untested leader without the military background of his predecessors, Rabin, Barak, and Sharon, who, experts say, would not let himself get bogged down in Lebanon a second time.

Middle East expert Haim Malka.

HAIM MALKA, MIDDLE EAST EXPERT:  Sharon was focused on one strategic objective, and that was to withdraw from Gaza.

GREGORY:  Prime Minister Olmert, Malka argues, was misled.

MALKA:  He has let himself be convinced by the military that this was going to be a quick and relatively painless operation to neutralize Hezbollah‘s threat.

GREGORY:  With each day of survival, Hezbollah‘s support grows, its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, now celebrated as the man who stood up to Israel.

Israel‘s U.N. ambassador today argued Nasrallah cannot be allowed to succeed.

DAN GILLERMAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS:  Israel has repeatedly been compelled to act not against Lebanon, but against the forces and the monstrosity which Lebanon has allowed itself to be taken hostage by.

GREGORY:  But its missteps to date raise a troubling question.  Has Israel, the seemingly invincible power of the region, lost its ability to deter its enemies from attacking?

(on camera):  That fear is among the primary motivators for Israel now, as it presses for more time to achieve that still-elusive goal, Keith.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  David Gregory at the White House for us tonight.  Great thanks.

Did flying into Los Angeles just turn into a promise of major delays every day?  LAX suddenly has 25 percent fewer runway space, though apparently it could be worse.  You could have Katie Couric on your flight.

And the big mystery brewing in Ohio.  As Steve Martin and Bill Murray once asked on “SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE,” What the hell is that?

That, whatever it is, and more, ahead on COUNTDOWN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  Thirty-six years ago today, the most successful and probably most journalistic tandem in the history of television news came to an end when Chet Huntley retired from NBC‘s “THE HUNTLEY-BRINKLEY REPORT.”  Remarkably, a week ago, Huntley and David Brinkley were referenced in a PBS documentary about Walter Cronkite, referenced by veteran CBS News producer Shirley Wershba, whom you may have seen portrayed by Patricia Clarkson in the movie “Good Night and Good Luck.”  She called them Tweedledum and Tweedledee and said they had once done a cute little act.  Unconscionable and unprofessional.

Let‘s play Oddball.

We begin in Cleveland, where residents of one suburban neighborhood are wondering, What is this freaking thing roaming around our yards?  I could avenge Messrs. Huntley and Brinkley right now, but I will choose not to do so.  Folks there were so weirded out by this that they took this video, hoping to figure out, What the hell is that thing?  An armadillo with no skin.

Most people think the animal looks like a squirrel with a bad case of the mange, a disease caused by mites.  Wildlife officials say, No, no, it‘s just a freaky little baby hippopotamus.  Actually, you know, it‘s possible I may have read that backwards.  Well, what‘s the diff?

To Minneapolis, home of the big First Annual Guitar Toss.  And it‘s about time that a sport once enjoyed only by rich, drunken rock stars made it way back to the parking lot of the local Humane Society.  Participants paid $1 each to attempt to throw acoustics (INAUDIBLE) -- acoustic guitars into a dumpster.  The event raised $800 for the animal group, and once they pay for the guitars they smashed, that means almost $6.50 will go to help care for area strays.

Still, it went better than last year‘s Ferrari Crashup Derby.

Finally to the city of Chenai, India, where young Kapish (ph) there is the apple of his father‘s eye.  At 4 years old, he is already behind the wheel of the family car.  Kapish‘s dad says he‘s been giving the kid lessons almost every day, and even though it‘s highly dangerous and completely illegal, you just can‘t argue with how goshdarn cute he is sitting there.

Quite impressive to boot, if you consider what the traffic is like in India.  No wonder Kapish‘s dad is looking for somebody else to take the wheel.  Guy‘s nerves are probably gone.  If this was your daily commute, handing over the keys to your toddler might not seem like a bad idea.

Certainly Mel Gibson would have been better off handing his keys to Kapish.  Gibson‘s drunken tirade criticizing the Jewish people could end his superstar status.  We‘ll try to get the bottom of the latest—or to the bottom of the latest reports about rehab.

Meantime, not showing up for work should definitely be a career-ender.  The Hollywood exec who figuratively slapped around Lindsay Lohan on paper goes on camera to figuratively slap her around again.

Details ahead.

But first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s top three newsmakers of this day.

Number three, an unidentified passenger aboard a Cathay Pacific plane going from Hong Kong to Tokyo.  As the plane taxied before takeoff, she had her new Gucci handbag on her lap.  Flight crew told her to put it under the seat in front of her.  She refused to let the Gucci handbag out of her grip.  The flight was delayed by an hour.  She eventually got off the plane rather than take her hands off her new handbag for a moment.

(INAUDIBLE) new handbag.

Number two, Alan Dechert, the president of the Open Voting Foundation.  He says researchers were able to open up and change the vote totals inside one of those notorious Diebold voting machines, rig the vote, in other words.  All they needed to do it was a screwdriver.  Wait, now, you need a screwdriver?  Just tapping on the machine on the side doesn‘t work anymore?  What the hell?

And number one, I‘ll just read the Associated Press lead paragraph of this story.  Iowa City, Iowa, an unidentified middle-aged bicyclist was trapped under a Girls Gone Wild full-sized charter bus Tuesday night for about 20 minutes.  And sir, your complaint was what, exactly?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It has, in short, everything, celebrity, alcoholism, hypocrisy, anti-Semitism, sexism, paranoia, spin, a trip into a recovery program, audiotapes, a coverup, and best of all, a mug shot.

Our third story on the COUNTDOWN, to paraphrase myself when we started the infamous ESPN 2, good evening, Mel Gibson, and welcome to the end of your career.

In a moment, the exact likelihood of that with our guest Tom O‘Neil of “InTouch” weekly, and a special announcement about Mel Gibson Driving School Puppet Theater.

But first, from our correspondent George Lewis in Los Angeles tonight, the details of the dassion (ph) of the Christ.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE LEWIS, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Today there were questions all around Tinseltown about whether Mel Gibson‘s drunken tantrum would hut his career.  It all began early Friday morning. 

(on camera):  According to the sheriff‘s department, Gibson was arrested along this stretch of Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu doing 87 miles-an-hour in his Lexus.  The speed limit her is 45. 

(voice-over):  A written arrest report obtain by the celebrity gossip site, TMZ.com says Gibson made repeated anti-Semitic remarks, among them, “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” and he tried to get away.  And yet the sheriff‘s department said the arrest was “without incident.” 

HARVEY LEVIN, TMZ.COM:  He tried escaping.  He had to be subdued, physically subdued and cuffed and thrown in the police car.  That is not without incident. 

MEL GIBSON, ACTOR:  Please join me in supporting the L.A.  Sheriff.

LEWIS:  Gibson has close ties to the sheriff‘s department, even appearing in a deputy‘s uniform for this 2002 public service announcement. 

STEVE WHITMORE, SHERIFF‘S DEPT. SPOKESMAN:  Does that relationship lead to favoritism?  The answer is no.  Does that relationship lead to sanitization of a report?  Absolutely not. 

LEWIS:  Gibson issued a statement apologizing for his behave saying, “I did a number of things that were very wrong and for which I am ashamed.”  But it didn‘t quiet his critics. 

MARK WEITZMAN, SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER:  Well, I think the apology was

that Mel Gibson issued, was really a P.R.  exercise.      

LEWIS:  So how much will it hurt Gibson?  While some Hollywood types are calling for the industry to shun him, the consensus here is that it‘ll blow over.  And if Gibson keeps making blockbuster likes “Braveheart” this town will forgive his sins. 

George Lewis, NBC News, Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s call in the senior editor of “In Touch Weekly,” Tom O‘Neil to check that out. 

Tom, thanks for some of your time tonight.

TOM O‘NEIL, “IN TOUCH WEEKLY”:  Good to be here, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  Let‘s fact check something, first.  There‘s a lot of different versions—stories out tonight, contradicting information about rehab, a program of recovery is one spokesman said.  Us the term “rehab” and you‘ll be wrong, another spokesman said, and somebody in the industry, in the rehab industry said it was like a 12-step AA-like program.  What do you know?  Where did he go? 

O‘NEIL:  Well, all we know is that he is not at home and that he is in professional care.  I spoke to one of Mel‘s lawyers within the last hour who said that all of this will be cleared up tomorrow, that there will be a public statement in the morning. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, let‘s turn to the $640 million question.  Is it over?  Is this the kind of career damage from which nobody could come back? 

O‘NEIL:  I don‘t know how he could ever get out of it one, Keith.  Think about this, this isn‘t just hypocrisy, this is religious hypocrisy on a huge scale.  This man is almost Christ-like himself, he had this vision for the movie about Jesus and he went outside the Hollywood system, defied it, he took it worldwide and made $670 million.  He‘s more than just a movie hero to people, from “Lethal Weapon” movies and the rest of it.  He believes passionately in his Jesus and his faith.  And now he‘s spewing religious hatred.  This isn‘t like catching the Reverend Jimmy Falwell, excuse me, Jimmy Swaggart is the one I‘m thinking of—in the no-tell motel with a shady lady. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, so you have fulsome apology, he called his—what he said, “despicable,” into some sort of medical care.  It‘s very serious damage control, but it is not as if he uttered a drunken errant word.  They were complete sentences; he refers to Jewish people, all Jewish people, made a crass remark to police woman that sort of got paved over in this, threatens revenge.  This is not Hugh Grant on Hollywood Boulevard.  Has anybody, to your memory, ever damage controlled something this serious or is this almost Fatty Arbuckle levels? 

O‘NEIL:  Oh, this is Fatty Arbuckle level, and of course he certainly never recovered from that.  I don‘t know how Mel rallies from this, especially in Jewish Hollywood.  Think about this.  Now he is returning to the fold this fall with his $50 million opus “Apocalypto” which is some obscure Miamian language, it doesn‘t have the fanatical Christian following that “The Passion of the Christ” did.  And now these—so he needs the studio system back again and I‘m not so sure that they‘re going to be forgiving in this case. 

OLBERMANN:  And let‘s just clarify so nobody puts you on that list of folks who said things.  When you said Jewish Hollywood, you meant the Jewish community in Hollywood, not “Jewish Hollywood.” 

O‘NEIL:  Oh yes, exactly.  Yes, absolutely.

OLBERMANN:  Just wanted to double check on that.  What could he do?  How would he—I mean, we have that moment where Hugh Grant stepped back in to the limelight, where he said, you know, you do a good thing and bad thing and I did a bad thing, went on the “Jay Leno Show,” remade his career, made Jay Leno‘s career over again.  Is there a step like that, that you could even consider to start with as damage control—the first public appearance by Mel Gibson, after this? 

O‘NEIL:  Oh absolutely.  He‘ll make his virtual act of contrition, publicly, whether it be with Oprah or whether it‘ll be with, I don‘t know, Larry King, I don‘t know.  Maybe he‘ll get a papal blessing from Bill O‘Reilly.  That should clear everything up, shouldn‘t it? 

(LAUGHTER)

But, he‘s got certainly have to talk squarely with everybody, and honestly and I think we can certainly expect that.  What happens next—I think we all wish him well, but he‘s been suspected of this anti-Semitism for so long, that‘s what‘s really the problem here.  His father, of course is among the people who say the holocaust was overblown, it was never that big.  And Mel has never really renounced that, strenuously, and since then he‘s been accused of having very anti-Semitic sections of “Passion of the Christ” in there and he kept saying, “well it‘s like the Bible, I‘m not staying from the bible here.”  So, this suspicion of all suspicions really hurts.

OLBERMANN:  Well, if he goes on O‘Reilly, at least Mel could claim he‘s drunk.  You know, at least (INAUDIBLE)

(LAUGHTER)

O‘NEIL:  Well you know, the.

OLBERMANN:  Final question here about this whole—the—clearly this record in the case, it was to some degree, if not sanitized, the portions were redacted.  Let‘s put it that way.  Is that standard procedure in Hollywood?  I mean, judging by all the stories that are in, that you cover and the ones that I cover, it seems like 99.9 percent of the celebrities who get in trouble immediately hit the front page.  Is this an oddity or does this happen more than we know? 

O‘NEIL:  Right.  It‘s fairly common historically, but not in the age of audiotapes and videotapes.  They got him this time with that audiotape.

Yeah, we‘ll see if we ever hear that.  Tom O‘Neil with “In Touch Weekly.”  History divides evenly into those times that you‘re interviewing me and those times I‘m interviewing you.  Thanks for both times. 

O‘NEIL:  Thanks. 

OLBERMANN:  And as threatened, this special COUNTDOWN programming announcement.  What really happened when police pull over Mel Gibson?  And it was evidentially a car full of paranoia and Ripple.  The sheriff‘s office will not release the audiotapes, has yet to even release the mug shot, and thus they force my hand.

Join us tomorrow for a special COUNTDOWN investigation, what really happened?  “Mel Gibson Driving School Puppet Theater,” COUNTDOWN tomorrow night 8:00 -- at Midnight Eastern, 5:00 and 9:00 Pacific. 

And another celeb up the creek.  Lindsay Lohan allegedly parties too hard and she just doesn‘t show up for work.  One studio exec lays down the law and now does it again on camera. 

She should have used this excuse.  One of the four runways at LAX was closed, another nail to add to your commuting headache and still one more courtesy Katie Couric.  Details ahead, but first here are COUNTDOWN “Top 3 Newsmakers” of this day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘m going to nail you here.  I checked your voting

record.  You have not voted once while you‘ve been in office.  You going to

defend that?  Or you‘re not in the United States, you‘re in the district of

Columbia.  Those aren‘t states.  It‘s not the United States and the

district,

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  You are the first to suggest that the nation‘s capitol is not in the United States. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I don‘t think it is. 

HOLMES:  Oh, my goodness. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I spoke the folk over at the (INAUDIBLE) police department who tell me there were no incidents at all regarding any of the stripers out here on the river. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Don‘t you think if we were going to flash somebody we would have charged them $20. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Not only that, but we wouldn‘t do it around children.

BRUCE EBELL, GOLFER:  But a big hole in the umbrella and hit the driver directly. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over):  Bruce Ebell will tell you a little luck never hurts, a lightning bolt struck feet away. 

EBELL:  And I was standing on the deck and it wasn‘t a minute or two later when BAM!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The bolt missed Bruce.  His bag wasn‘t as lucky. 

(on camera):  This is what it normal driver looks like, but this is what it looks like now. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  If you haven‘t flown in a while, this word from someone who has.  Don‘t! Our No. 2 story on the COUNTDOWN, if you‘re trying to fly from Washington to New York, expect possible delays due to Katie Couric saturation.  Details on that in a moment, first, a warning about travel to L.A.  The fifth busiest airport in the nation will be rebuilding one of its four runways, so flights in and out may take longer.  It took me 10-1/2 hours to get there from New York 10 days ago, exactly how much longer are we talking here?  Months?  Some answers from LAX from our correspondent Tom Costello. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Runway 25 left at LAX has a design flaw and a bad reputation for close calls.  This weekend they finally threw the barricades, painted yellow crosses on the concrete and told pilots it‘s off limits.  For the next eight months the fifth busiest airport in the world will operate on three runways, not four. 

NANCY CASTLES, LOS ANGELES INTL.  AIRPORT:  This year alone we‘ve had six runway incursions.  Last year we were at eight. 

COSTELLO:  A runway incursions is when two planes nearly collide on the same runway.  The most serious incident in years happened just last week when an arriving America West plane pulled right in front of a departing United Express flight.  The LAX solution, rip up runway 25 left, move it 55 feet to the south, and include a new taxiway down the center so pilots don‘t accidentally pull onto an active runway.  It will give the airport more room to the giant 380, that will start landing at Los Angeles within a year or two.  Important work, but passengers wonder if losing ¼ of the runways will also lead to congestion and delays. 

ELI DORTNOY, LOS ANGELES TRAVELER:  Do I fly out of here or do I go to Long Beach or do I go to Burbank?  I mean there‘s just some other options for some of my destinations. 

COSTELLO:  Even with 1,800 flights each day, LAX says the delays should be minimal, only five minutes during the peak morning and evening rush hours.  Still, airlines are adding more taxi time to their schedules, just to be safe. 

PETER GREENBERG, “TODAY” SHOW TRAVEL EDITOR:  The impact on the daily traveler is this, your plane may push back from the gate on time at LAZ, but you may be doing a lot of taxiing you had no intention of doing, and you might be No. 33 in a very large conga line. 

COSTELLO:  The first big test came today with the LAX Monday rush, 60 to 70 flights an hour, 75 percent capacity and the only delay, according to the airport, due to fog. 

For COUNTDOWN, I‘m Tom Costello, NBC News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And now a runway concursion of different kind.  With the caveat that even the complainants not that what Katie did cost the flight absolutely no time, in fact they got in 10 minutes early.  It‘s still one of those celebrities gone wild stories that makes everybody cringe. 

A Delta shuttle flight from Washington to New York, last Wednesday, reportedly experiencing a Katie Couric delay.  So reports the 52 percent reliable “New York Post.”  It quotes a public relations executive, clearly not one working for Ms. Couric, nor CBS, who says that the doors had been closed, the crews told to prepare for crosscheck, and the passengers buckled in, when Ms. Couric got out of her seat and told a flight attendant she needed to talk to the pilot.  She was permitted into the cockpit, wherein she convinced the pilot to delay the flight so one of her producers, late arriving, could board.  That‘s right, k-k-k-Katie in the c-c-c-cockpit.  Delta says unusual situations like that happen every day and the crews try to accommodate passengers whenever possible.  Yeah, right. 

Through a spokesperson Ms. Couric conformed the story adding that Katie only spoke to the pilot after receiving permission from a flight attendant. 

Bet she wouldn‘t have done that for Bob Schieffer. 

To our nightly round up of celebrity and entertainment news, “Keeping Tabs.”  And it‘s and easy segue from the jeers Katie Couric got for leaving her seat to the heckling another celebrity got for rising from his seat. 

Last night at Fenway Park, Boston the Los Angeles Angels visiting the Red Sox, when Boston‘s Alex Gonzalez sends a popped foul along the first baseline, Angels first baseman Howie Kendrick goes over near the dugout and scatches the ball away from a fan to retire the side.  But wait, that‘s no ordinary fan, it‘s super-hunk, Ben Affleck sitting in the Red Sox‘s owner‘s seats.  Mr. Affleck, who, after failing to get the ball was loudly booed by the Boston faithful for not doing more to interfere with the catch that cost the home team an out.  Thus, at today‘s baseball trading deadline, the Red Sox dealt Affleck to the Los Angeles Dodgers for infielder Cesar Izturis. 

I‘m sorry, that was the Chicago Cubs trading Greg Maddox to the Dodgers for infielder, Cesar Izturis.  And the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez to Kid Rock for Pamela Anderson.  You‘re mom‘s been traded for Pamela Anderson.

“People” magazine reporting that on Saturday, Miss Anderson and Mr.  Rock were married in a ceremony on a yacht in the Mediterranean.  As you can see here, Mr. Rock wore his finest Tiger‘s hat and beefy t-shirt.  Miss Anderson wore a veil and a (COUGHING) white dress.  The wedding is not considered legal by French officials because it was not performed in the office of the mayor of St.  Tropez, which is actually just a different yacht from that one. 

Call it revenge of the studio execs.  Hollywood a twitter with the very public smack down of Lindsay Lohan.  The analysis of Michael Musto, next.  That‘s ahead, but first, time for COUNTDOWN‘s latest list of nominees for “Worst Person in the World.”

The Bronze tonight to a young woman identified by local media in Ohio as Maria Bergen, she walked into the Moose Head Saloon in Westlake, Ohio and was carded by a waitress there.  Miss Bergen showed a drivers license that was not her own, it was the waitresses.  The license, along with her wallet and credit cards had been stolen from the waitress early in the month. 

The runner up, Senator Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum, still down by a lot in the polls in his reelection bid in Pennsylvania, but hitting a new high and low, announcing in a TV commercial and even on national newscasts—well, on O‘Reilly, that his opponent, Bob Casey had been endorsed by al-Jazeera.  He left the impression it was the al-Jazeera TV network.  In fact it was the al-Jazeerah Cross-Cultural Foundation.  Jazeerah with an “ah,” based not in Qatar, but Dolton, Georgia. 

But the winner:  You out there.  The unidentified L.A. to New York passenger from last night.  You who took that fold-over wheeled flight bag off the luggage carrousel at JFK Airport and then drove away.  Even though you should have noticed that the bag was made by a different manufacturer than yours was and that bag did not have the big red glow in the dark tag identifying you as working with Mindy Weiss Party Planers in L.A. 

Yes, that was my bag you took, not yours.  And that‘ll happen.  And United Airlines did a nice job getting a hold of you telling of your carelessness, and thus I only lost 40 minutes of my life waiting for you to return my bag that didn‘t have the Mindy Weiss Party Planners tag on it.  I‘m not complaining about that part, but at least you could have said you were sorry for the inconvenience or had the driver you sent in to make the switch instead of you personally doing it say “I‘m sorry.”  Courtesy is not that common, after all. 

The woman who could not be bothered to say “sorry.”  Today‘s “Worst Person in the World.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

OLBERMANN:  It is, for you fans of the HBO series “Entourage,” all too familiar.  Young, hot movie star gets in a beef with the head of the movie studio and before you can say, “remember what happened to Mel Gibson” the young, not movie star is publicly upgraded, fired and buried.  It happens, in fact, to be the show‘s current plot line.  In our No. 1 story in the COUNTDOWN, it‘s no guest shot on “Entourage” though, for Lindsay Lohan, its‘ the real thing. 

Details from Hollywood and correspondent Maria Menounos.  And by the way, why they don‘t make Jeremy Piven‘s Asian caricature the focal point of “Entourage” I do not know.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARIA MENOUNOS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Lindsay Lohan, one of the most popular hot young stars in Hollywood, now in hot water with her boss who fired off a stern letter last week, “We are well aware that your ongoing all nigh heavy partying is the real reason for your so called ‘exhaustion.‘ We refuse to accept bogus excuses for your behavior.” 

JIM ROBINSON, CEO OF MORGAN CREEK PRODUCTIONS:  I think sometimes with these young stars, no one tells them, hey, you got an obligation.  You know, you‘re getting paid good money, you have a great, great life.  Show up. 

MENOUNOS:  Jim Robinson, the head of the production company making Lohan‘s next movie, talking on camera for the first time about the letter he fired off, chewing out his biggest stars for missing work too many times. 

ROBINSON:  We got an e-mail back from that Lindsay would not be there the following day and that was unacceptable.  So I sat down and wrote the letter and wrote it again, and wrote about five or six times. 

MENOUNOS:  Robinson says the 20-year-old‘s active social life has disrupted the filming of “Georgia Rule,” a movie co-staring Jane Fonda and Felicity Huffman.  He does not believe Lohan‘s claim she missed a day due to heat exhaustion. 

ROBINSON:  If she had enough strength and energy to go partying, then she should have strength and energy to go to work. 

MENOUNOS:  Lohan, through her publicist refused to answer questions for this story.  But over the weekend, the star‘s mother criticizing the letter.

DINA LOHAN, LINDSAY‘S MOTHER:  The wording was ridiculous.

MENOUNOS:  Telling “Access Hollywood” that the movie meltdown reported in papers across the country was simply an exaggeration. 

LOHAN:  I mean, OK.  I mean, she‘s a human being, you know.  She‘s got

you know, there was a day where she was a little bit late and they worked the schedule around her and it was fine. 

MENOUNOS:  But the chief of Morgan Creek Productions says every day Lohan is late or missing from stage three at (INAUDIBLE) studios, it‘s costing him about $20,000 to $25,000 an hour, prompting him to tell her “you have acted like a spoiled child.” 

JOEL STEIN, “LOS ANGELES TIMES”:  Yeah, executives never talk to stars this way.  But this is an old guy, he‘s a millionaire.  He doesn‘t care anymore.  He‘s going to call her a spoiled child.  I like him. 

MENOUNOS (on camera):  But the stern warning may not be slowing Lindsay down.   She was seen partying at several trendy bars and restraints after the letter was delivered, leaving many to wonder whether she‘s worried about her job. 

(voice-over):  Friday night she was spotted at Le Du (ph) a trendy nightclub in Hollywood.  Saturday nigh she showed up at the Hardrock Hotel in Los Vegas with her boyfriend.  A celebrity videographer who goes by the name “Dano” says he sees Lohan out on the town at least four nights a week.

“DANO”, CELEBRITY VIDEOGRAPHER:  She needs to tame it down a little bit.  But, maybe she‘s doing a little research for her role.  I don‘t know. 

MENOUNOS:  Even if the party isn‘t over for Lohan, there are signs the infamous letter got her attention. 

ROBINSON:  She did apologize to the cast and to the crew, and that‘s good enough for me. 

MENOUNOS:  Lohan‘s boss hopes this story has a happy ending.  She has shown up for work on time since the scolding. 

Maria Menounos, NBC News, Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OLBERMANN:  And joining now for his ever-unique perspective, “Village Voice” columnist, Michael Musto.

Good evening, Michael.

MICHAEL MUSTO, “VILLAGE VOICE”:  Hi Keith, I‘m right on time.

OLBERMANN:  Good, think you.  I know that—there‘s never really been a performer who‘s won a battle with executives since like, Charlie Chaplain and Mary Pickford in 1922.  But in this fight, are we seeing the return of the old fashioned studio smackdown?

MUSTO:  Oh I hope so.  Yeah, this is like when LB Mayer told Judy Garland you‘re going to pop pills, you‘re going to lose weight and you‘re going work your butt off, honey.  It ruined her life, but who cares, she made some fabulous movies.  This is a return to that.  Of course, but Lindsay‘s life was already ruined.  And she doesn‘t always make fabulous movies, but I love seeing stars being told who‘s‘ the boss.  I think a letter should go out to Judy Dent (ph) saying, you don‘t party enough, lighten up, you‘re a morose woman.

OLBERMANN:  This is the 21st century, no late-night activities are secret anymore.  She must have know that would have been more compelling if she‘d told the studio “the dog ate my script” or, you know, “I lost a leg in a accident” or something?

MUSTO:  Or in her case, maybe my dad peed on the sculpt.  But, no, no, no he‘s in jail, he couldn‘t have done that.  But look, she should have said, like that guy just said, that she was researching the movie.  I looked up this movie, Keith, it‘s about, guess what, a rambunctious rebellious, teen girl who needs to be straightened out.  She should have said how can I go play that part unless I go be rambunctious at clubs every night.  Lord knows I don‘t want to. 

OLBERMANN:  As mentioned if the Maria Menounos hard-hitting investigative report there, Miss Lohan‘s mother, Dina, said the wording of the letter was ridiculous.  Was it—are they complaining about that spoiled child reference?  What, is she not spoiled or not a child or what?

MUSTO:  Yeah, it‘s like the mother is saying, oh, she‘s not spoiled, I mean, she‘s just exhausted from boogying all night and then she doesn‘t feel like working and earning her kazillion dollar paycheck everyday.  How is that spoiled?  Then again, bare in mind, the mother is an ex-Rockette, all she really know is the human domino routine and how to avoid the camel (INAUDIBLE) in the living activity sequence.

OLBERMANN:  The other quote from mom here was, “Lindsay was in 105-degree weather saying ‘mommy, I feel sick like I‘m going to faint.‘” Would Lindsay Lohan be better off in mommy just stayed the hell out of this.

MUSTO:  Well, actually, I think mom is sweet and she‘s being supportive.  She always has been, but in this case, she‘s going too far, a little too protective.  She‘s a little bit like John Wayne Gacy‘s mother who‘s like, he‘s a little flawed, but I‘m proud of the guy.  He‘s a terrific artist. 

OLBERMANN:  All right, we have breaking news and you‘re just the man to join us.  Check this out, bring it on up, folks.  It‘s the Mel Gibson mug shot.  Here it is, can you see it?

MUSTO:  I‘m not looking, but if I were I could see it, yes. 

OLBERMANN:  And there‘s just on hair out of place.

MUSTO:  That‘s Nick Nolte.  That‘s Nick Nolte.

OLBERMANN:  No, that‘s Mel—that‘s the Mel Gibson mug shot just released by the L.A.  County Sheriff‘s Department.  So we‘ll interrupt the Lindsay Lohan breaking news to bring you a quick Mel Gibson breaking news.  You haven‘t chimes in on all of this, Michael.  Is—give me that overview, what do you think the big debate here is as we look at him smiling sadly into the camera, if that‘s possible?  Is his career ended on a Malibu highway early Saturday morning. 

MUSTO:  Unfortunately, no because he works alone anyway.  He doesn‘t with anybody else and his audience is already anti-Semitic, so they‘re deeply proud of him after this.  But I can actually tie these two stories together because Lindsay recently offered Mel a ride Herby the Love Bug, which was fully loaded and she was too.  And Mel declined because Herby‘s a Jewish name.  But he does like Lindsay‘s sugar boobs.

OLBERMANN:  Yes, well “boobs” was not the word that Gibson used for the officer.

MUSTO:  Well, I‘m a gentleman, thank you.

OLBERMANN:  So there it is.

MUSTO:  And I adore Jews.

OLBERMANN:  The one and only Michael Musto.  Great thanks for your time tonight. 

MUSTO:  Thank you.

OLBERMANN:  And that was Friday morning.  Let‘s see that picture one more time as we.

MUSTO:  Freaky Friday. 

OLBERMANN:  Show Gibson again.  This is the just breaking news, here. 

Breaking news.

That‘s COUNTDOWN for this, the 1,187th day since the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. 

I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Goodnight and good luck.

Our MSNBC coverage continues now with “Scarborough Country.”  Tucker Carlson sitting in tonight.  Tucker, breaking news, the Mel Gibson picture.

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

END  

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